SCHOOL staff union UNISON is advising it is unsafe to open schools — and is calling for a two-week delay.

Isle of Wight school support staff are among those who have already written to their headteachers with their concerns and expressing a willingness to work from home but not from a classroom.

Isle of Wight UNISON branch secretary Mark Chiverton said Island members were contacting their schools with their concerns. There are 500 members on the Island.

Primary and special schools are supposed to be opening from tomorrow, but the advice from UNISON, in line with other national trade unions, is that, given the current situation involving a much faster spread of the new coronavirus strain, it is unsafe to open schools.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted schools are safe.

Trade unions are working together in an attempt to change government policy to ensure that all schools throughout the country are closed in line with the position in London and a number of other parts of the country – including large parts of the South East.

This is being done by the trade unions to maximise safety for school staff in the more serious current situation.

Main concerns are that social distancing has been difficult to enforce over recent weeks and that, given the propensity for the new strain to spread more quickly, it is 'almost impossible' for schools to provide a safe working environment.

UNISON, along with other trade unions at a local level, has been in touch with senior management of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Councils over the last couple of days and they are aware of the position being taken.

The Isle of Wight Council is continuing to follow the advice of government.

UNISON's advice is that members should advise their headteacher or employer that they do not think they should attend the workplace as normal, but are willing to carry out any duties that can be undertaken from home, or to be in school if supporting provision and the learning of key worker and vulnerable children is necessary.

UNISON's national schools committee will meet tomorrow (Monday) to discuss the next steps.