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UNISON’s recommendations for safer re-opening of schools in England

The government announced on 27 January that it hopes to re-open schools in England on 8 March. UNISON believes that school re-opening should only happen when the science says it is safe, when school risk assessments have been updated, and when appropriate safety measures have been introduced.
We must ensure that schools do not become ‘vectors of transmission’ again. It is vital that the Department for Education (DfE) allows for a staggered approach so that a sudden re-opening does not increase local transmission rates. We believe a phased return and the ability to have flexible rota systems would help to make schools safer.
In a noticeable change in policy the DfE has constructively engaged with UNISON and other unions in the last few weeks. We are hopeful that this new relationship will result in improved guidance that will make the full return to schools safer.

UNISON has outlined several key measures below that we believe the DfE should implement before schools can fully re-open:
Allow schools to use a rota system/blended learning when schools re-open.
Split classes into smaller groups to keep bubble sizes as small as possible.
If necessary, give schools additional funding to hire extra staff and space to accommodate them. Small bubbles, rotas
and a phased return would help to ensure 2m social distancing.
Keep staff and pupils within one bubble (except for emergencies) to reduce risk of cross transmission and wider closures.
Subject to a risk assessment, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including medical grade masks,
for staff administering first aid, medical care or personal care activities where social distancing cannot be maintained,
for example in some special schools and nurseries.
Staff and pupils in secondary schools should wear face coverings in all areas of the school, including classrooms.
Read the recommendations in full here 26307_safer-schools-plan

Latest Guidance here https://www.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/2021/02/Joint-union-safety-checklist-for-March-2021.pdf