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.

UNISON Action on Sickness and Stress

UNISON Action on Sickness and Stress

More and more of us face formal sickness processes at work, with the stress of knowing our jobs could be on the line through no fault of our own.

Southend UNISON stewards recently  took part in 2 days of training looking at how best to support  members when they are faced with a formal sickness absence process.

Sickness training delegates
Southend activists on the Sickness Process training course

In Southend branch we know these processes are becoming more and more common. We find cases also more often relate to stress and anxiety, often due to the volume of work and lack of management support or to  long-standing underlying health issues which employers are failing to address with ‘reasonable adjustments’ as set out in the Equalities Act.

UNISON nationally and as a branch has highlighted how the massive cuts in local government funding since 2008 were bound to store up trouble as staff workloads have doubled as the workforce has been axed.

It’s coming home to roost now with increased sickness figures relating  to stress are increasingly being reported.

Find out more about stress at work and what you can do to  protect yourself and make our workplaces safe – see UNISON’s advice here!

Find out more about ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support your disability/health issues on the Worksmart site  here

Contact your steward or the branch if you  have questions, ideas or need our help.