Trade unionists criticise Wigan Council over Covid-19 in schools task force snub

Wigan Trades Council said it had offered to build a group to deal with the effects of the pandemic in the borough.

However it said they had received “absolutely no response” from the council and only one response from a councillor to emails.

The group aims to see the trades council work with parents, school workers, trade unionists, members of the community and the council on a response to Covid-19 going forward.

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In a statement, the organisation said: “This offer received absolutely no response from the leadership of the council, and also, despite every Councillor with a public email address being contacted only one Councillor responded.

Wigan Trades Council is concerned about Covid-19 measures in schools

“The leadership and every other councillor hunkered down, choosing not even to acknowledge our concerns. Remarkable, given the Council’s stated objective of wanting to work with local people.”

Wigan Council did not refer to the criticism but merely spoke about what it has been doing to ensure schools are Covid-secure.

Wigan Trades Council is holding a People before Profit meeting tonight (Monday) to discuss the way forward during this “unprecedented crisis”.

The meeting discussed the government’s decision to bring back all pupils in England to school together on March 8, which it has slammed as “reckless and callous”.

They said a phased return to learning would have been more sensible to “safeguard children and their families” from Covid-19.

The meeting aims to bring all those together who urge caution and a staggered approach to schools returning.

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In a statement, the organisation said: “Last week all school unions, with the support of educationalists and independent scientists, released a statement calling upon the government to initiate a phased return to learning in order to safeguard children and their families.

“The haste with which the government announced an end to the lockdown in schools on March 8 and allow 10 million people (almost one fifth of the population) to congregate is seen as reckless.

“A further announcement from this government that they expected some 30,000 or more further deaths from Covid-19 compounded a callous approach to the safety of school staff and students and the wider population.

“Everyone wants children to be able to return safely to school.

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“Every parent wants to get on with their working and home lives, and every pupil wants to re-establish friendship networks. But not everyone agrees with or trusts the government’s judgement that March 8 is the right time for a total reopening.”

Cath Pealing, assistant director of education at Wigan Council, said: “Following the national decision to reopen all schools on 8 March, we are supporting our head teachers with their preparations to ensure a safe return for pupils and staff.

“We regularly engage with our headteachers virtually and provide daily and weekly briefings and interventions to support schools who are experiencing particular issues.

“In addition to this, we meet with our trade unions twice weekly in order to discuss concerns and questions to ensure our staff, families and communities are safe, well and supported.

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“Throughout the pandemic, the council has been looking to the future and has prepared Covid-19 recovery plans in line with feedback from residents and businesses through various engagement processes.

“We would like to thank schools and teachers on doing such a fantastic job on a daily basis despite the challenges that the pandemic has presented. We would also like to thank our families for their continued patience and cooperation.”

The People Before Profit meeting is on Zoom this evening from 7pm. Register to join by emailing [email protected]

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