Southend UNISON’s February 2021 branch newsletter is available for download here.
- Covid Health and Safety Advice
- Redeployment Rights
- National Women’s Event
- General Secretary Election Results
- Southend Council Cuts
Southend UNISON’s February 2021 branch newsletter is available for download here.
UNISON is holding a mass national on-line meeting for schools and early years members in England on Wednesday 27 January at 5pm. We will talk through the issues facing schools and early years workers right now and will be answering members’ questions throughout the meeting.
Southend UNISON urges our members in schools and early years to attend this meeting.
The meeting is on-line and you can find details, including of how to join up on the national website here.
The latest Covid advice can be found here.
If you work in a school or have school-age children, UNISON believes urgent actions are needed over and above current government policy to support suppressing Covid 19 in our community and to safeguard staff, students and families.
If you have concerns about your school, or want help and support implementing safe working, contact UNISON at firstname.lastname@example.org
UNISON’s national Schools Committee believes that to help bring the national rate of infection down, to ensure the safety of pupils, staff and the community, and to prevent further damaging ad hoc closures, schools and nurseries should instead return to the position of the first lockdown – open only for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.
To ensure effective home learning, the government should urgently fund all necessary equipment for pupils that need it, so that high quality education can continue. We are firmly committed to getting pupils and staff safely back into schools once national infection rates are under control.
In the meantime, we believe the following safety steps should be implemented immediately:
You can read our statement in full here.
With some schools open already and the rest set to follow in the next couple of weeks, here is the latest information from UNISON about safety in schools and early years.
We’ve got an update on face coverings, a reminder about our dedicated guidance page, and important new advice for staff who have serious concerns that returning to the workplace will endanger their health.
The government has been forced to change its guidance on face coverings after weeks of pressure from UNISON and other unions (as well as high-profile scientist Professor Alice Roberts referencing our advice).
From 1 September, head teachers in secondary schools in England will have the “discretion” to introduce face coverings in their schools.
Additionally, in areas of local lockdown, staff and pupils in secondary schools will be required to wear face coverings in corridors and communal spaces. (The same exemptions for those unable to wear face coverings will apply.)
UNISON’s position remains that staff should be allowed to wear face coverings in any educational setting, if you choose to. We continue to pressure the government to issue clearer guidance and we will keep our FAQ on face coverings updated.
UNISON’s General Secretary Dave Prentis issued his response to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Covid-19 spending statement. See the full response here.
“Proper investment in our public services would help speed the country back to recovery and more prosperous, certain times. It would heal over the deep cracks in care and the NHS exposed by the pandemic.
“With extra funds, national and local public services could provide many more jobs. A much-deserved early pay rise for health workers and council staff would mean money in their pockets to be spent on local high streets.
Over the last few days there has been further speculation that the government is considering increasing the number of pupils in schools in June.
UNISON, GMB and Unite, the recognised unions for school support staff, have been supporting their members who have been continuing to work in schools throughout this time. The unions have also been taking feedback from school staff on the government’s reported plan to increase pupil numbers. This has shown very high levels of concern and worry from staff and parents about a premature return to school before it has been proven safe to do so.
The three unions have already set out the conditions they believe need to be met before schools can safely be reopened. At this time we do not believe that the government has met these conditions.
UNISON, GMB and Unite are therefore seeking urgent talks with government. We have also called on the TUC to co-ordinate a joint position to protect staff and pupils with the other teacher and heads’ unions.
In the meantime, please keep a regular eye on our respective websites for up to date information.
We, like all, want to see pupils back in schools as soon as possible, but this should only happen when it is proven safe to do so and parents are reassured to send their children into school.
Follow Unison Schools on Facebook for up to date news and information
Pictures from Southend UNISON’s event at the Civic Centre and some selfies by members – Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living.
We joined the national minute’s silence for key workers who have lost their lives and in support of all those who are in the front line, in the NHS, social care, transport, retail, post office and other sectors. They need our solidarity and proper protection. Thanks to all those who supported (despite the rain!) #IWMD2020 #PPEnow
If you work in a school or work for a contractor in a school, there is new advice from the government about continuity for contractors. Essentially, UNISON advises that schools should continue to pay all their contractors – and that contractors should pay their staff!
This information should be used to help ensure all staff keep their jobs and their pay during the Covid-19 crisis. The advice is detailed but can be shared with your employer to help clarify what is expected. Contact UNISON email@example.com if you want to discuss how this affects your school or your position as the employee of a contractor. Click here to see the government document in full.
To: Gavin Williamson
Secretary of State for Education
Dear Secretary of State,
As National Secretary of Education at UNISON, I am writing to you to raise concerns about the current support and advice that is being offered to school support staff and other education support workers during the Coronavirus crisis.
Following your letter which was issued last week to Heads and Teachers, we are deeply concerned that this guidance is not clear or relatable to many other key workers who work in schools.
In the background, UNISON has been working closely with civil servants in the Department for Education to try to ensure that guidance being issued from the DfE works for all staff. We havestruggled at times to get our message across, but I recognise that they are very busy and
trying their best. In the circumstances UNISON has taken a pragmatic approach and not sought to undermine the Government at this time of crisis.
Sadly, far too many messages have excluded 50% of the workforce – school support staff and other education support workers. This was reflected in a speech you gave last week praising the contributions of heads and teachers and which you have now re-iterated in your letter to them.
You are right they are crucial – but so are support staff. In many schools and local authority hubs most staff working are support staff. Other schools are being totally run by heads and support staff. Support staff are putting themselves at risk by working directly with pupils, many of whom will have parents carrying out key worker roles which increases their risks of
exposure to the virus.
The most vulnerable pupils still in school usually respond best to their teaching assistants, and the nature of the care provided often means social distancing between support staff and pupils is impossible to implement, particularly in SEND settings.
We still await guidance around the use of PPE which the DfE has said it will provide. We know that there are videos on the use of PPE for NHS staff that explain what PPE is necessary inwhat situations and we believe this advice should be made widely available.
Many support staff have volunteered to ive up their Easter holidays, yet there has been no guidance on how this will work from your department and there are other issues that specifically affect support staff that have not been addressed.
Finally, I note that you have regularly spoken to Heads and teachers’ unions – but again not support staff representatives. UNISON’s top priority throughout has been, and will continue to be, to work jointly to support schools and their staff in their leading role in the fight against this
pandemic. In these circumstances we believe our different perspective should also be considered.
I would welcome your thoughts on why you and your department have so far ignored school and other education support staff and their representatives and what can be done to address this.
Support staff are now questioning whether we are all in it together after all.
UNISON has now provided updated information for schools workers on the national website. This can be found here.
If you have further questions or need UNISON’s advice on your situation or the situation in your school, please contact Southend Branch on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01702 215980 (leave a message).