Important – National January Advice for Schools
This advice applies to all primary schools, special schools, SEND and early years settings in England.
- In UNISON’s view, it is unsafe for you to attend the workplace at present if your school is fully opened to all pupils.
- Our advice is that you should decide to advise your head teacher or employer that you will not be attending the workplace but will be available to work remotely from home or only being in school supporting provision and the learning of key worker and vulnerable children if necessary.
- Here is a letter for to send to your head teacher or employer:
- When sending this letter, you will also be asserting your legal right to be protected against any detrimental action by your employer, including to your pay. This right is explained in full in the model letter.
- Our advice applies for at least the first two weeks of term, the same period for which secondary schools and some primary schools have already been instructed by the government to move to remote learning.
- UNISON is issuing this advice after careful consideration of the advice which was apparently given to the government by the SAGE advisory group and the current position on infection rates.
Safety in schools
- We understand that SAGE has advised the Government that schools should move to remote learning in order to help reduce the rate of spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- The advice given by SAGE has only been adopted in relation to secondary schools and to primary schools in some Tier 4 areas. Given the overall increase in infection rates, however, we believe it is unsafe for schools to reopen in any area at present.
- Infection rates are far higher than at the end of last term. This increase has been promoted by the new variant of the COVID-19 virus which was not properly understood at that time. These developments mean, in our view, that the risk assessments in place in schools at the end of last term cannot now be relied on by employers to demonstrate that workplaces are safe in these changed circumstances. We are calling on all employers in all schools, whatever age group they serve and whatever the local tier of restrictions, to review their risk assessments and safety measures before asking employees to return to the workplace.
Face to face provision
- We accept that schools may need to provide face to face provision for vulnerable students and the children of key workers and are also expected to open for some exam groups.
- This should happen after risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety, including for necessary social distancing and limits on group sizes.
- We are advising members that they should agree to make themselves available to attend the workplace to support these students on a rota basis. The model letter you can send to your headteacher/employer makes clear you are making yourself available to work from home or to support with this limited in-school provision.
Petition to make schools safe and protect communities
- Along with the teachers’ union, the NEU, we have launched a public petition calling on the government to use this period of remote learning to establish how quickly the new variant of the virus is transmitted, and to establish measures to keep schools more “COVID secure”.
- UNISON’s national schools committee meets on Monday 4 January to decide next steps and we will keep you updated via email. Please also follow our Facebook page for the latest information.
- In the meantime, please use the model letter to notify your head teacher or principal of your position.
If you have any issues concerning Covid in your school, the advice above or any other concern, contact the UNISON branch at firstname.lastname@example.org