Schools and Lockdown – UNISON says more action needed!

Schools and the ‘Second Lockdown’ – action needed for staff and student safety!

classroom photoIf 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 unison@southend.gov.uk

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:

  • Reduce risks by maximising social distancing and implement existing
    contingency plans for reduced class sizes and home learning (schools alreadyhave these plans in plans in place).
  • Reduce bubble sizes and introduce rotas to reduce risks.
  • Staff remaining within one bubble; so reducing the risk of spread across the
    school.
  • Moving whole bubbles to home learning where a pupil or member of staff
    develops coronavirus symptoms or receives a positive test.
  • Ensure that all school staff have priority access to the test and trace system.
    Require all pupils and staff to wear face coverings while at school (including
    classrooms) as is policy in other countries e.g. France. Clear face masks to
    be made available so that pupils and staff who need to read lips are not
    disadvantaged. There should be exemptions for pupils and staff who cannot
    wear face coverings.
  • Move all clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), clinically vulnerable (CV), staff over 60 and pregnant staff (3rd trimester) to home working as they are at the highest risk from becoming seriously ill if they catch the virus. CEV and CVstaff who cannot work from home to stay at home on full pay.
    Individual risk assessments for staff in other higher risk groups, such as Black staff, older male staff and those with weight issues, who are at increased risk of adverse outcomes if they contract the virus. Staff identified as being at particular risk should also be allowed to work from home.
  • Permit and encourage staff (and pupils aged 16 and over) to use the NHS
    COVID app in school, including classrooms, as per DfE guidance.
  • Stronger measures on school transport and at the school gates to stop
    mixing, ensure social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.
  • Increase funding to schools to cover the increased costs of cleaning

You can read our statement in full here.

Schools Return – Latest Advice

Dear Members,

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.

Face coverings

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.

New government guidance

Our comment

UNISON’s response to government spending statement

Money for public services would mean a quicker recovery

UNISON’s General Secretary Dave Prentis issued his response to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Covid-19 spending statement. See the full response here.

Picture of twenty pound note“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.

Joint union statement – no premature return to school

Support staff unions’ statement: Conditions for return to school-

Covid in schools header

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

Covid-19 Minute’s Silence

UNISON Marks International Workers’ Memorial Day

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

News on Schools Contractors

Advice on Contractors in Schools –

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  unison@southend.gov.uk 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Schools – Don’t forget about Support Staff!

Letter to Government – Don’t Forget about Schools Support Staff on the Crisis!

To: Gavin Williamson
Secretary of State for Education

Dear Secretary of State,

Support Staff and the Coronavirus

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.
Yours sincerely
Jon Richards
National Secretary
Education

National Advice for Schools Workers

National UNISON Covid-19 Advice for Schools Workers-

UNISON has now provided updated information for schools workers on the national website.  This can be found here.

You can also download UNISON’s Frequently Asked Questions for Schools Workers in England as a pdf 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 unison@southend.gov.uk or by phone on 01702 215980 (leave a message).

National Advice for Social Care Workers

National Advice for Social Care Workers

UNISON nationally has issued advice for social care workers – follow the link below to read this.

Coronavirus advice for social care workers

Southend UNISON will also do everything we can to support our members locally. You can reach us on unison@southend.gov.uk or by phone on 01702 215980 (leave a message). 

If you or your colleagues are union members but do not receive emails from UNISON, please email us at unison@southend.gov.uk to enable us to ensure we can keep in touch with you.

Please keep in touch with your union over these issues, whether with good stories about how we are coping safely or your concerns and worries, so we can collectively support each other in what are unprecedented times.

Latest Advice for Schools Workers

Schools Workers – Latest Advice from UNISON

UNISON appreciates these are extraordinary times for all with increased anxiety and emotions running high. The latest news of some schools staying open has no doubt added to this. As a branch we will continue to support our members and to ensure we all get the best advice and information.

Southend Local Government UNISON’s latest advice on the current situation is:

  • You should not be in school at work if you, people you live with, or people you care for are in an ‘at risk group’ (see UNISON’s  national website www.unison.org.uk for the details on this)
  • The school  should seek volunteers to work where possible
  • Large staff meetings should not be held
  • You should only be caring for children who have no other means of care due to the critical role their parents have (around 10% of the school population) – the school needs to be clear with parents that if they can care for their children they should
  • You should not be at work if you are not directly supporting children. For instance, you do not need to be in school to be put on a rota to clean out the cupboards! Heads should be minimising contact by minimising numbers of workers in the school. This in turn will minimise the risk of infection
  • You should have access to PPE (personal protective equipment) such as hand sanitisers and wipes.

Working over the Easter holidays:

  • You need a break too – try and negotiate what rota best suits you over this time. Maybe have a week as a block of time off if this is appropriate?
  • You should get paid for working over the holiday –  if you prefer time off in lieu then ask but be aware this might be hard to take and the current situation may last for a long period of time.

The local UNISON website www.unisonsouthend.org.uk  and the national website www.unison.org.uk   have information for all workers and this information will be updated regularly. Please share this resource with colleagues.

We will be contacting schools directly to inform them of our concerns and expectations as above. Remember you do have rights and while you will be working hard to do what you can for children, do not place yourself at any unnecessary risk.

If you or your colleagues are union members but do not receive emails from UNISON, please email us at unison@southend.gov.uk to enable us to ensure we can keep in touch with you.

Please keep in touch with your union over these issues whether with good stories about how we are coping safely or your concerns and worries, so we can collectively support each other in what are unprecedented times.