The Shropshire secretary for the National Education Union (NEU) accused the Government of ‘turning a deaf ear’ to teachers who want to keep children safe by teaching more of them remotely.
The NEU has questioned Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertion that classrooms are safe for children, while he suggested stricter coronavirus lockdown measures could soon be brought in for England.
The Government is still planning to reopen primary schools this week for face-to-face learning, while unions have nationally advised teachers not to attend for safety reasons.
The NEU’s Shropshire secretary, Charles Thomas, teaches in the county and said that teachers want to educate children face-to-face to help them learn, but that the “shambles” of the Government’s approach to mass vaccination and the development of the new variant of the virus made that an unsafe proposition for now.
“We feel that, contrary to what Mr Johnson says, schools are not safe places,” Mr Thomas said.
“This is not because of the actions of headteachers, who have worked really hard to try and make schools safe.
“We feel that schools are not safe because of the virus, not because of the setting it is in.”
“Sage (the Government’s scientific advisors) agreed that schools are now a major transmission point. The Government seem to be turning a deaf ear.”
Meanwhile, two teaching unions in Wales have called for the reopening of schools to be delayed due to the new strain of coronavirus.
Plans for when schools will reopen following the Christmas break differ across the four nations.
All of London’s primary schools and those in some surrounding areas will not reopen until January 18 due to the fast-spreading variant of Covid-19.
Primary schools elsewhere have been told to stay open and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said parents should send children back to classrooms where they are open this week.
But local leaders across the country have said they will support head teachers that decide it is safer if schools remain closed.
Secondary schools in England will have a staggered return, with those taking exams this year resuming in-person teaching on January 11 and other year groups on January 18.
The Christmas break has been extended until January 11 in Scotland, with teaching to be online only until January 15.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the “planning assumption” remains to open schools for face-to-face learning on January 18, but parents will be informed of any changes that may be necessary.
Schools are set to use staggered returns for pupils in Wales, with face-to-face learning expected to return for most by January 11 and a full return before January 18.
On Sunday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said a “phased and flexible return” had been agreed with local authorities, which would allow schools to choose their reopening date based on the coronavirus situation in their area.
He said the Welsh Government would “keep this under consideration”, while its technical advisory group would look at all available evidence early next week.
First Minister Arlene Foster said remote learning for schoolchildren in Northern Ireland should only be for a short period.
Primary pupils are to be taught remotely for the week from January 4-8, while for secondary school Years 8 to 11, remote learning is due to last for the entire month.