Schools & Academies in England, Member Update – 29th October 2021
We hope this finds you well.
Coronavirus infections continue to increase in England and in the week ending 16 October 2021, the highest percentage of those testing positive was in school years 7 to 11 (7.80%). Because of this workers in schools and education, for the first time, are more likely to test positive for Covid-19 than any other group of workers. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has stated that “The higher likelihood for those working in education is likely related to the high infection levels among school aged children.”
As we face another winter with COVID-19, control measures at work are going to be crucial in keeping you and yours safe and well and in this email, we will recap on the key information in ensuring your workplace is as safe as possible.
Risk Assessments are key to ensuring you are protected at work. By completing risk assessments, your employer is demonstrating they have considered all risks and that all necessary actions have been taken to ensure that everything reasonably practicable has been done to minimise risk. Risk Assessments should be reviewed and updated regularly and shared with you. The control measures identified to reduce risk need to be adhered to and if you have any concerns that this is not happening, speak to your manager. You should be familiar with the risk assessments in your workplace as you need to ensure not only that you are complying with any control measures but also that you know how you are being protected at work.
VENTILATION, VENTILATION, VENTILATION
Good ventilation reduces the amount of Coronavirus in the air. Ventilation can be provided by opening windows and it is important not to completely close windows and doors when the area is being used, as this can cause very low levels of ventilation. If achieving good ventilation makes rooms and spaces cooler (minimum working temperature is 16C-18C) the dress code should be relaxed to accommodate appropriate clothing to be worn. Risk assessments for all rooms, should have been carried out and these should include the levels of ventilation to identify poorly ventilated rooms. Risk assessments should detail how good ventilation is going to be achieved and maintained and by now your school should have received a CO2 monitor from DfE which can be used to assist in ensuring rooms are properly ventilated.
Things to think about in your workspace/ classroom
- Numbers of people in the space and length of time together
- Size of room
- Can the windows be opened?
- Can a door be kept open to improve ventilation?
- Is the space aired in between use and at the start of the day?
- Are activities such as singing, shouting and physical exercise taking place as these generate higher levels of aerosols thereby increasing the risk?
- What will happen when the weather gets colder, windier and wetter?
GMB advise that members should avoid working in rooms that are poorly ventilated.
NJC INDICATIVE INDUSTRIAL ACTION BALLOT
75% of members rejected the 1.75% NJC Pay Offer for 20221/22 in the recent consultative ballot. As a democratic organisation, GMB is now asking members what they want to happen next, by way of an indicative industrial action ballot. This opens on 1st November and you will be receiving an online ballot very soon. GMB London is asking as many members as possible to take part in this ballot and is not making a recommendation as to how members should vote. Please click here to access our FAQs on the indicative ballot.
VISITS TO SCHOOLS
It is great to be back visiting members in schools and listening to their experiences. These visits have also been welcomed by members as they are an opportunity to discuss Covid safe working during the winter and issues such as job evaluation, workload and health & safety. If you would like to request GMB London to visit your school, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although we have now been living with Covid-19 for 18 months, it remains as important as ever to be safe at work. The voice of support staff needs to be heard in schools and it is important issues are addressed collectively where possible- together we are stronger and together we can make a difference. If you have any colleagues who are not in a union, they can join GMB online at www.gmb.org.uk/join.
Stay safe and take care.
Lisa Bangs, GMB London Region Organiser
Keith Williams, GMB London Region Senior Officer