Schools & Academies in England, Member Update – 04 March 2021
We hope this finds you well.
As Monday approaches and many of you are facing the prospect of all children returning to school at the same time, we thought it would be useful to share with you the most up to date information from GMB.
The last time we contacted you, we shared information about the importance of risk assessments and we hope you have been able to be part of the risk assessment process within your school and have seen the risk assessments which have been prepared. Risk assessments are key in keeping you safe at work as they identify risks and put control measures in place to address these.
Despite requests from Unions for a phased return, the Government has decided all pupils and staff will return at the same time. Although infection rates are now at their lowest point since last year, GMB remains concerned that this ‘big bang’ reopening could potentially once again lead to an increase in infection rates. The advice sent by GMB London last week remains and GMB has now, along with sister Unions produced new guidance in the form of a checklist for all reps and members in schools and this can be found here Joint union safety checklist for schools (gmb.org.uk)
The DfE guidance is only minimal in what it sets out to schools as the Head Teacher, as the employer, ultimately has responsibility for Health and Safety. Therefore, the Joint Union checklist goes above and beyond what is set out by DfE e.g DfE states Clinically Vulnerable staff can return to the workplace but the Joint Unions position is that ideally these members should still be allowed to work from home until their vaccination has taken effect. Your safety is our priority. The concern GMB has is that the DfE guidance does not consider the consequence and implications of there being an increase in infection rates, caused by a lack of phased return and the Unions are suggesting extra measures which could be implemented to hopefully prevent this from happening.
Our advice to you is to make sure you are familiar and happy with the Risk Assessment that has been completed and to ensure you feel safe and protected in your role and what is being expected of you. These Risk Assessments should be done prior to Monday 8th March. The Joint Union checklist has been shared with Head Teachers and GMB hopes that many will do their best to accommodate the additional requests being made.
Great, positive steps have been made in dealing with the Pandemic and it feels as though at long last there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Infection rates have significantly reduced but we need to be careful this does not lead to complacency. GMB wants you to feel safe at work and we have prepared an information sheet with important points for you to consider when schools fully reopen.
Many of your colleagues will not be in a trade union because they have not been asked to join and they do not know what GMB does and the many benefits it offers. Please share this with any colleagues who are not in a union, they can join GMB online at www.gmb.org.uk/join. The more GMB members in a school, the stronger we are and together we can make the difference in addressing issues that matter to you. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to all those who attended our online schools' meeting and for your continued support.
Please stay safe and take care.
With kind regards.
Lisa Bangs, GMB London Region Organiser — Schools and Academies
Keith Williams, GMB London Region Senior Organiser