Teachers left feeling ‘totally expendable’ by school reopening plans

TEACHERS have been left feeling ‘totally expendable’ by plans to reopen schools next week, a leading union official has said.

Marina Mauger. Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (29912248)
Marina Mauger. Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (29912248)

Union representatives were due to be briefed by the government today about whether the new term, previously delayed by 48 hours as a result of Covid-19, will start as planned next Wednesday.

NASUWT representative Marina Mauger said she was not optimistic about the government acceding to teachers’ demands that schools should remain closed – to most pupils – until at least Monday 11 January.

‘Teachers want the closure to be extended, in line with the closure of non-essential shops,’ she said. ‘What sort of government closes [non-essential] businesses but expects teachers to work as normal?

‘This isn’t about teachers getting an extra week’s holiday – they would still be teaching online, and schools would be open for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, but by reducing the numbers we would be reducing the risk.’

Mrs Mauger said teachers had already been left exposed by the States Assembly’s decision that there should be no early closure ahead of the Christmas holiday, which began as scheduled on 18 December.

‘Lots of worried teachers have been in touch, and they are telling me that they feel totally expendable,’ she added. ‘It’s as if they don’t matter to the government, as if childcare is more important than the health and welfare of teachers.’

A government spokesperson said that talks regarding the new term were still ongoing.

The prospect of a post-Christmas spike in cases was a further concern, Mrs Mauger added. She said she feared that a fall in cases in recent days was a reflection of lower numbers of tests over the Christmas weekend, rather than a genuine reduction in infection rates.

After peaking at 1,019 on 21 December, the Island’s tally of known active cases had fallen to 930 by Christmas Eve and to 773 by yesterday afternoon.

In the four days up to Christmas Eve, a daily average of 1,830 tests were carried out, but since that point the daily testing average has fallen to 1,038.

Jersey’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has continued this week for healthcare staff and vulnerable Islanders. More than 90% of eligible care home residents were vaccinated prior to Christmas and will shortly be eligible for the second of their two jabs, while those aged 80 and over are expected to receive the vaccine in January.

The Island began its vaccination programme using the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, but it has not yet been confirmed when Jersey will receive supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine developed by scientists at the University of Oxford.

Reports in the UK media have indicated that the Oxford vaccine could be given regulatory approval this week, with an estimated 20 million doses – one fifth of the total number ordered by the UK government – waiting in warehouses and ready for distribution once the go-ahead is given.

Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies receive vaccine supplies via the UK and expect to get the same number of doses on a pro-rata basis.

Meanwhile, the States police confirmed yesterday that there had been no call-outs related to gatherings over the Christmas long weekend.

Islanders had been urged to avoid meeting indoors, with a maximum limit on gatherings of ten people on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

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