Shirley Knott’s ill-informed and inaccurate letter about what she calls the “honourable profession” of teachers does both teaching staff and the many support staff of various categories that schools rely on a great disservice.

Firstly, members of the unions representing all categories of school based staff, headteachers, teachers and support staff, are deeply concerned about the Government’s proposals. So much so that, far from being out of tune with their members, the National Education Union (NEU), which represents all these categories of employee, has gained many thousands of members in the last few weeks.

Unions do not dictate to their members, employment law does not allow that, and the NEU, for one, has conducted massive online consultations with its members. It also takes decisions in line with democratically decided Conference policy that members vote on. Unions also advise on relevant Health and Safety law.

Whilst I am full of admiration and gratitude for the long list of other workers she mentions, to suggest that the postal worker who pops my post through the letter box or the delivery driver who rings the bell, leaves the parcel on the doorstep and disappears before I can open the front door, as well as some of the others she cites, are at greater risk than teachers and others working in close proximity to young children without PPE is farcical.

Has she ever been in a class of early years children? Keeping them apart, even with reduced numbers, will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, and teachers will have to undo all the good habits of co-operation and close working that they normally instil. Has she ever been in a school with narrow corridors or in a school playground at breaktime? Children may be at less risk of suffering from the virus, but they may well be carriers, transmitting it not only to school employees but also to other children who may take it home to the adults in their families.

Despite these risks, school staff have not been “remaining at home on full pay” as almost all state schools have been open for the children of key workers throughout the current crisis and teachers, as key workers themselves, have been devising work schemes for those not attending but learning at home. It is not a case of schools re opening, but of opening more fully; this must be when it is safe to do so.

Teachers are not, as she claims, Government employees but work for Local Authorities, Academies, etc. and it should be for these employers and their Headteachers to undertake the relevant risk assessments to decide when it is safe, bearing in mind the local conditions, layout of the school, adequacy of washbasins for this situation and any other relevant factors.

It is to be noted that that most independent schools (including Eton and Harrow), which many of the Cabinet send their children to, are staying closed until September. Does Shirley Knott imagine that this is because of unions? No, it is because of common sense and concern about safety for both staff and children.

Many parents share this concern despite their and their children’s understandable desire to get back to school, a desire shared by school staff when it is safe to do so.

The Government was quite sure in its assertions that there was no danger to residents of Care Homes – look how wrong they were. The deaths there are now more than all other deaths put together. So, how then, can we trust their assertion that there is no risk to teachers, children and the families they go home to each evening from the more widespread opening up of schools?

The unions representing school staff are doing their proper job, protecting both their members alongside the children and families they serve. Using this to indulge in “union bashing”, Shirley, does no service to the “honourable profession”.