Schools & Academies in England, Member Update – 3rd November 2020
In light of the impending second national lockdown we thought it would be useful to look at what this may mean for you and your school.
At present, there seems to be only two options being discussed when it comes to schools - schools staying open by continuing to operate as they are or schools closing. GMBs’ position though is that schools should stay open but with revised and improved safety measures. GMB recognises the responsibility and attachment members feel for their pupils and schools and want to ensure you can continue to work in the safest possible way.
When schools fully reopened in September, it was on the basis that infection rates of Coronavirus were low and that there was an effective testing system in place but as we know this is unfortunately no longer the case. Therefore, in light of the increase in transmission and the impending lockdown, risk assessments should be revised to take this into account. GMB would suggest the changes you should be looking for and suggesting on risk assessments could be:
- Bubble/class sizes being reduced
- No crossover between bubbles
- PPE being provided if there is no social distancing between adults
- Adequate ventilation in all workspaces balanced with proper temperature regulation in the cold weather
- Extra cleaning of frequently touched surfaces
If your school has had an outbreak of Coronavirus, this should have resulted in risk assessments being reviewed and changes made where necessary. If there has been a cluster of cases it may be because the control measures have not worked and need revising. Examples of changes could again include stopping crossover working between bubbles or reducing bubble sizes. If there is little difference in the numbers of staff being infected and pupils being infected, this also needs to be looked at because it may suggest control measures, such as social distancing, are not working for adults. We have never before experienced a pandemic and lessons are being learnt along the way and this means the safest and best way of working will be one where employers are open to change and willing to frequently review risk assessments and working practices.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) or clinically vulnerable (CV), it is even more important your place of work is safe. GMB is calling for all CEV/CV members to work from home with immediate effect and if the role cannot be completed at home, mutually agreed alternative work should be provided. If, as may be the case for a small number of cases, this is not possible staff should be paid as normal. If your local area has high transmission rates you should ask you Head Teacher what measures the school is taking to keep you safe and explore the possibility of you being facilitated to work from home.
GMB is here for you to offer support, advice or representation with any of these issues so please ask.
This new national lockdown comes at a huge cost, both financially and emotionally for many people and it is important the Government uses the opportunity to not only ensure the testing system is made fit for purpose but to update guidance for schools about necessary safety measures. When the DfE published the original guidance for schools it was against a very different backdrop to where we find ourselves now and if the Government is committed to schools remaining open, it should be equally committed to schools being safe workplaces.
GMB will always put the health and safety of members first and believes that it is important to try to work together with employers in a pragmatic way to find the safest and most constructive way forward. This does not mean though that if our members are not properly protected GMB will not react. GMB will always protect members and if need be, register disputes with employers who fail in their duty of care to put safe systems in place and will call for a school to be closed if our member's lives are being put at risk.
Full details of GMB“s statement on the national lockdown can be found here: https://www.gmb.org.uk/network/public-services-section/schools-academies-education-noticeboard/all-schools-staff-noticeboard
Please feel free to share this update with your colleagues and if someone is not already in a union they can join GMB online at https://www.gmb.org.uk/join-gmb . Being a member of GMB means you are not alone when facing difficulties at work and your membership should give you confidence to raise issues you and your colleagues may be facing, knowing you are supported by your Union. A collective letter template that can be sent to your Head Teacher raising your concerns is HERE. We are stronger together and at this time of national pandemic it is more important than ever to stand together. Support staff carry out invaluable roles in schools and deserve to be recognised and respected for the work they do.
A school is not just a school - it is a workplace and you have the right to be safe at work. If you do not currently have a GMB representative in your school and would be interested in becoming the rep, please contact us at email@example.com and we will be happy to discuss the role with you. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact your local branch, Regional Organiser or the Schools Team.
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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