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, the leading union for school support staff, has been supporting members who have been continuing to work in schools throughout this time.
The joint staff and teaching unions have 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.
Unison has already set out the conditions they believe need to be met before schools can safely be reopened; given the increased risk to staff, pupils and their families of exposure to the virus and increased risk of spread by schools re-opening, compounded by the huge difficulties in maintaining social distancing and hygiene measures such as hand-washing in schools.
We ask that the government shares:
The different options the government may be considering, such as phased returns by school type, year group or pupil numbers in each class.
Modelling carried out for any of the re-opening options being considered, including the impact on the number of cases of Covid-19 and consequent deaths amongst staff, children and their families and carers.
Plans for regular testing of children and staff, including consideration of testing prior to a school opening.
Plans to ensure appropriate levels of PPE are available to staff and children where necessary – current government guidance on PPE in schools is wholly insufficient and places our members at increased risk.
Clear guidance and protocols around situations where close contact with children is inevitable, including the administration of medicine and restraints.
Plans to ensure cleaning supplies are adequate and there is availability of outside agencies to conduct professional ‘deep cleans’ where cases of Covid-19 are identified.
Considerations being given to the protection of children and staff who are in vulnerable health categories, over 70 or pregnant, staff living with people in these categories, the proportion of
staff who will be self-isolating/shielding under any given timetable, and the proportion of staff likely to be off sick at any one time.
Considerations being given to the impact on public transport demand, and how risks will be minimised for drop-off/collection of children at school, walking buses, multiple families walking
their children to school and congregating in school grounds.
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 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 sufficiently reassured to send their children into school.
The decision about when to go back will be made nationally by Government and implementation will be dealt with collectively with large Multi Academy Trusts and the local authority. But Health and Safety relies on members at the chalk face raising problems with local managers. Could you be the one to help look after your colleagues ? To find out more E-mail C.Woods@unison.co.uk