HSE must now be called on to advise on the safe reopening of schools and colleges
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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must be urgently tasked by Government with providing guidance and advice to schools and colleges about the safety of reopening to more pupils, the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, has told ministers.
NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach has written to both the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey calling on them to exercise their powers to direct the HSE to provide support and advice to schools and colleges.
The NASUWT believes that the publication of the SAGE scientific advice and the guidance issued to date for schools and colleges by the Department for Education has failed to provide the assurances employers, teachers and parents need that schools and colleges can be reopened safely.
Therefore, in the NASUWT’s view, there is a strong case for guidance specifically for schools and colleges from the HSE which offers clear guidance about managing and minimising the COVID-19 risks to pupils and staff.
Dr Roach said:
“Given the considerable uncertainty that remains about whether schools will be in a position to reopen safely to more children from 1 June, the NASUWT is today urging the Government to immediately and urgently call on the Health and Safety Executive’s expertise for assistance.
“We believe that the Health and Safety Executive has a key role to play in meeting the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensure that schools are “covid-secure” and “covid-compliant” for children and for the teachers and other staff who work with them.
“There is a strong case that urgent guidance needs to be provided by the Health and Safety Executive in respect of the management of COVID-19 risks in schools and other education settings. It is surprising that this has not already happened.
“We want to see work by the Health and Safety Executive to assist school and college employers to be clearer about what constitutes acceptable levels of risk in the management of COVID-19 and how they should act to mitigate these risks.
“The involvement of the Health and Safety Executive would also give teachers and parents reassurance and could reduce the risk of the wider reopening of schools being interrupted indefinitely.
“Harnessing the expertise of the Health and Safety Executive as a regulator and enforcer of workplace health and safety standards is now critically important as schools and colleges prepare to ensure that they can reopen safely to more children.”