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

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

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.