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Councillor’s retweet over school teachers in lockdown sparks dismay

PUBLISHED: 12:31 15 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:32 15 May 2020

Felixstowe Coastal councillor Graham Newman said he had

Felixstowe Coastal councillor Graham Newman said he had "great admiration" for teachers. Picture: GREGG BROWN

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A senior Suffolk councillor has said he has “great admiration” for teachers, after coming under fire for a recent tweet shared on his account about teachers in the coronavirus lockdown.

Graham Newman, Conservative councillor for Felixstowe Coastal at Suffolk County Council, had retweeted a post which suggested that teachers had not been doing any work during the coronavirus lockdown and were reticent about returning to work.

MORE: Bookmark the EADT Coronavirus page for latest updates

It prompted a backlash from some on the social media platform, who took exception to the suggestion that teachers had not been doing any work.

Mr Newman, a former Felixstowe mayor who is currently vice-chairman of the council and held responsibility for children’s services and education at the authority between June 2009 and May 2013, has moved to clarify the situation.

He said: “I’d like to make it absolutely clear that I have great admiration for all Suffolk teaching staff who are currently working in what are difficult and uncertain circumstances for us all – and I have tweeted to this effect.

“Retweets are not necessarily an endorsement of an original, but for clarity I have long since removed the one in question.”

It is understood the retweet was removed later the same evening.

Councillor Jack Abbott, the authority’s opposition Labour spokesman, said he felt that “teachers would be dismayed” at the tweet and added: “Teachers have been exceptional during this crisis, keeping schools open for children of key workers and supporting the protection of vulnerable children.”

The retweet came amid a strong national debate on how pupils should return to schools.

Questions have already been asked as to whether the June 1 date tabled for certain year groups is too soon, while discussion has also been prevalent on whether older pupils facing exams next year or younger and vulnerable children should be the first to return.

Graham White, spokesman for the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union, said: “The issue about returning to school is complex. The Department for Education chief medical officer was not asked about which year groups it was safe to return. Pupils are super spreaders so the ‘lockdown’ was about protecting staff and parents/ carers too.

“Schools were open for key worker children. Staff are parents and carers too and deserve protection.”

MORE: When will schools return and what issues do they face?

He added: “Teachers are key workers who do their best for all children at all times. They often work in excess of 50 hours a week. Weekends and ‘holidays’ are also used by teachers to work.

“I would be very surprised if you could find the family of a teacher who said they have hardly worked during this crisis and who do not work long hours in term time.

“Teachers believe education is important and that is why they go above and beyond to try and achieve the best for all pupils.”

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