A teachers’ union has written to senior Brent councillors urging them to resist pressure to open nurseries and special schools during the third national Covid-19 lockdown.

Jenny Cooper, the joint secretary of Brent’s National Education Union (NEU) district, said keeping these settings open could have serious health ramifications for staff.

It comes as guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) stated “early years providers should stay open and allow children to attend their normal timetabled hours”.

This covers early years registered nurseries and childminders, maintained nursery schools, nursery classes in schools and other pre-reception provision on school sites.

Ms Cooper called on the borough’s MPs – Dawn Butler, Barry Gardiner, and Tulip Siddiq – as well as Brent Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt and its schools’ lead Cllr Thomas Stephens to publicly challenge this standpoint.

She wrote: “In Brent our nursery and special school headteachers have, as usual, put safety first, and resisted opening to increased numbers of children. As you know this is in line with the policies of all education unions, the NEU included.

“However, they are now being pressured to implement this Government’s shameless edict just at the moment that deaths and cases reach a record high, the virus is out of control, we hear of deaths of our workers every day and the NHS in London is at breaking point.

“I’m afraid I have to be brutally honest with you here. I cannot morally bring myself to advise my members (when they write to me concerned that their settings are going to fully open to children and staff) that they must go into their school or nursery, because the reality is that I know that if I give this advice, some will subsequently become seriously ill or die. This is the reality.”

She explained it would be extremely useful for staff if local politicians announced that schools, and council officers, do not need to adhere to DfE guidance in early years and special school environments.

The NEU in London believes this is particularly important given the mayor, Sadiq Khan, declared a “major incident” in the capital last week due to the increasing pressures brought on by Covid-19 and schools have “been shown to be a major transmission factor with the new variant” of the virus.