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Schools for special-needs children will face huge problems if they follow government plans, warns NEU

SCHOOLS for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) will face insurmountable problems if they follow the government’s drive to open schools more widely, education staff warned today.

The National Education Union (NEU) said that in a survey this week, 96 per cent of special-needs teachers reported that it was already impossible to maintain social distancing in their schools.

And 86 per cent said they feared a high risk of airborne transmission from pupils spitting, dribbling, biting, coughing and sneezing, while almost half said that they feared for their personal safety.

Most special schools have maintained limited opening during lockdown to cater for small numbers of pupils unable to stay at home during the coronavirus crisis.

But the government wants more children to attend from Monday, despite scientific research warning that it is not safe to do so.

The NEU said that the survey provided a “clear picture of life on the frontline” working with children with complex needs. 

The polling reflected the additional and specific risks for pupils and staff in special schools, as well as their families, the union said.

NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “This survey is a startling reminder of the risks teachers, heads and special-school staff have been facing in recent months. 

“This is a complex sector with acute challenges. It is not good enough for the Department for Education to release guidance so tardily, when the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable children in society ought to be paramount.”

Sheffield City Council joined increasing numbers of local authorities today in advising schools not to open to more pupils from Monday.

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