The prime minister has said decisions on new measures for schools tackling coronavirus will be taken “imminently”.
School leaders have been urging the government to let heads decide whether to close their schools based on individual circumstances.
However, details of the government’s emergency coronavirus bill say it would give ministers the power to order schools to stay open or close.
A letter from the National Education Union has been sent to the prime minister. It reads:
“We all want to limit and delay the spread of the coronavirus and we do think medical advice and expert scientific advice is important in this regard.
“But it is clear that such advice can have uncertainties, and that it could be crafted to target a variety of measures.
“We now see that you may take legal powers to force schools to remain open even when heads and teachers think there is good reason to close.
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“In those circumstances we, as the leaders of the largest education union, believe that it is right for us to ask you for fuller disclosure of the models you have looked at, and to understand which measures you are targeting.
“We do not have the medical expertise to know what the transmissibility is between children and staff in close quarters in classrooms – but your scientists will have made assumptions about that, together with some view of the certainty of those figures.
“It is very important that we understand what the increased rate of infection is for staff and parents if schools remain open, including obviously for those with underlying health conditions themselves, or for those they care for.”