Schools & Academies in England, Member Update – 4th January 2021

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Dear Member

It hardly seems possible how much has changed in recent days and weeks in relation to COVID-19. It is important to us at GMB London that the advice we give you is accurate and as up to date as possible which can be a challenge in this ever-changing situation.

We now know the Prime Minister will be addressing the Nation at 8pm this evening and this will likely result in further changes. In light of this we will be circulating further advice tomorrow when we have had the opportunity to consider the implications of any announcement for our members working in schools.

We know you are committed to your school and the children and we want to make sure that you can continue to carry out your role in the safest possible way. That is why GMB has taken a pragmatic and constructive approach in developing our position and consulted with our lay member led GMB National Schools Committee.

We are aware, as you will be, that some Unions are advising school support staff to send a Section 44  letter and refuse to go into work. GMB is not taking this blanket approach but this does not mean though that GMB does not recognise the important right of any employee to refuse to work if they are facing serious and imminent danger. Further, GMB London will advise and support any member individually who has serious concern for their health and safety and explore the possibility of use of Section 44.

GMB London recognises the need for schools to open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers but will not allow this to be to the detriment of our members. GMB London is therefore requesting all Head Teachers revert to the practices put in place originally when schools closed to all but the children of key workers and vulnerable children at the start of the pandemic, namely

  • Bubbles kept to a minimum and limited in size to a maximum of 15 pupils
  • No crossover working between bubbles
  • Rotas put in place for support staff to allow for at home and in school working so exposure and transmission are minimised

It is becoming evident that SAGE no longer has confidence in the measures put in place in September, which allowed schools to re-open on a wider basis, and believe they may no longer be sufficient and therefore GMB is requesting the following

  • Risk assessments to be revised in light of the new variant increased transmission and infection rates
  • Individual risk assessments to be reviewed and CV and CEV staff members referred to Occupational Health before being required to attend school.
  • The effectiveness of control measures e.g bubbles and proper use of ventilation be reviewed and revised
  • PPE to be provided where needed

We recognise this remains a difficult time for our members and we are here for you. We will contact you again tomorrow with further information and advice, once we have the latest from the Prime Minister this evening. If there is anything concerning you , please contact your workplace rep, local Branch, Regional Organiser or for further advice.

Take care and stay safe. 

With best wishes, 

Lisa Bangs, GMB London Region Organiser — Schools and Academies

Keith Williams, GMB London Region Senior Organiser 


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