Schools & Academies in England, Member Update – 4th March 2022
We hope this finds you well.
LIFTING OF RESTRICTIONS
The Government has now lifted all Covid restrictions, despite Scientists and NHS leaders urging caution and warning against the removal of legal self-isolation and free testing, The government’s own SAGE advisors have also warned about the speed at which new variants could spread. In schools, we know this is a particular cause for concern. In light of the removal of restrictions, GMB has written to all Head Teachers and you can access a copy of the letter here. The letter calls for schools to remind and encourage staff and pupils to not attend school if they test positive for Covid, continue with asymptomatic twice-weekly testing and to ensure staff ( and contractors) continue to receive full pay when they are isolating with Covid and not to count Covid related absence towards trigger points. GMB's position is clear- free testing and self-isolation requirements must remain to keep workers and their families as safe as possible.
Even though the Government has lifted restrictions, the UK Health Security Agency is still advising the public to use masks where appropriate, ensure good ventilation etc and their advice can be found here COVID-19: Simple and effective ways to protect yourself and others - UK Health Security Agency (blog.gov.uk)
School risk assessment and individual risk assessments need to be updated to consider and mitigate any new risks, particularly to vulnerable pupils and staff, including those who are pregnant. The removal of asymptomatic testing is the removal of what was an important control measure to reduce the risk of transmission. Therefore, schools should be looking for other ways to reduce the risk of transmission such as proactively encouraging anyone who tests positive to not attend school. Good ventilation remains a key factor in reducing airborne transmission and should be maintained and monitored.
Covid related absence should not be included towards sickness absence trigger points and staff should remain on full pay as Covid falls under the category of infectious diseases. This does not include Long-Covid, only the initial Covid related absence.
Your experience is important and GMB London would like to hear from you about what is happening in your school, and what your thoughts are about the lifting of restrictions. Please click on the link to complete a short survey that will take no more than two minutes to complete- https://forms.office.com/r/FrWZPBNpRS. The results will allow us to identify any new issues and will strengthen GMBs position when representing the views of school support staff we would like to thank you in advance for your time with this.
Whilst the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, responsible and clear leadership is still required. Unfortunately, this is not coming from the Government or DfE and once again it will fall to headteachers, school staff, parents and Unions to address the issues being faced. GMB London is here for you if you require any advice, help or support and you can contact your local Branch or email email@example.com.
Disappointingly, and despite the strong rejection of members from all recognised NJC Trade Unions, the Employer would not increase the offer of 1.75% for 2021/22. This 1.75% will now be implemented and backdated to April 2021 to all Local Government & Schools workers covered by NJC Terms and Conditions. Given the cost of living crisis and the highest inflation rate for 30 years, the 2022/23 pay claim is going to be more important than ever. GMB will be seeking members' aspirations and campaigning for a proper, decent pay rise and we will be in touch again soon.
GMB members in schools have been coming together to address the issues that matter to them such as dealing with challenging behaviours, Covid health & safety issues and menopause friendly working. A collective voice is a strong voice and the more members GMB has in a workplace the stronger that voice is. If you have any colleagues who are not in a Union, they can join GMB online at www.gmb.org.uk/join. If you are interested in becoming a Rep in your school, please contact us for further information. Together we are stronger and together we can make a difference.
Lisa Bangs, GMB London Region Organiser
Keith Williams, GMB London Region Senior Officer