We want a safe return to school – not a reckless one

On this page you will find a copy of UNISON’s Safer Schools Plan, some of the latest science on school reopening, and a copy of the joint Tower Hamlets NEU/UNISON Letter to Head Teachers asking for them to consider a staggered return.


Many union members will have been shocked by the government’s announcement that all schools will be reopening in a “big bang” reopening on March 8th. Last Friday, all nine education unions wrote to the government calling on them to rule out such an opening.

Boris Johnson’s plan for schools flies in the face of the government’s scientific advisors. We are calling on the government and head teachers to stagger the reopening to schools in order to ensure minimum risk, monitor infection levels, and maximise time for testing in secondary schools.

Following the Science

We believe that Boris Johnson’s announcement goes against the Government’s Scientific Advice. Here’s some important science to know if you’re arguing against a reckless wider reopening.

  • The new variant of Covid first found in the UK is around 50% more infectious, and could be up to 30% more deadly (source)
  • A full reopening of schools could increase the R rate by between 40-60%, with R estimated at 0.6-0.9, this means reopening schools could push R above 1. (source 1) (source 2)
  • Teachers and other education professionals are the fourth most at risk occupational category from Covid infections – higher than nurses. (source)
  • Scientists have predicted at least 30,000 more Covid deaths as a result of lockdown easing (source)

Letter to Head Teachers

The NEU and UNISON locally have produced an open letter to members to circulate, sign and send to their head teachers. The letter says:

“…We really want to see our children back in school where they belong. But we do want a return to school to be safe and sustainable – we do not want to return to another lockdown.

“For these reasons, we strongly support the joint statement from education unions and the National Governors Association that advised on a phased reopening of schools, to allow for systems to bed in and for the impact on infection rates to be monitored

“Although the government has said that that they want all children back in schools from March 8th we will support you and our governors taking a more cautious approach to this.

“With three school weeks between March 8th and the Easter holiday, we believe we are well set up to continue our model of blended learning, while we bring year groups back in on a staggered basis. We think such an approach is in line with the balance of scientific opinion…”

If you are a rep, circulate this letter to your members, ask them to add their name, and send it to your head teacher as soon as possible.

If you are at a school without a rep, ask the branch office for help contacting your members.

Download the Letter to Head Teachers

UNISON’s Safer Schools Plan

UNISON’s recommendations for safer re-opening of schools in England

Download Resources here:

A4 Safer Schools Poster

A3 safer_schools_plan poster