Schools & Academies in England, Member Update – 6th August 2020
We hope this finds you well and enjoying the summer holiday.
You may have seen the recent media coverage about the report highlighting the risk of a second wave of coronavirus should schools fully reopen, without an effective contact tracing system being in place. The authors have made projections based on the current contact tracing system in place and raised their concern with the Governments position. GMB has been calling for an effective and widespread track and trace system to be in operation before the schools partially reopened in June and will continue to make representation for this.
Thank you to all those who replied to our recent survey about the full reopening of schools in September. Over 75% of members who responded, had concerns about September and these surrounded the size of bubbles, the proposal for staff to work across multiple groups and the impact of changes within the school on their role. Many of you also support the wearing of face coverings in schools and are unclear as to whether you can wear a covering should you so wish. There is a real lack of clarity in so many areas but GMB London is doing its very best to bring you the most up to date and practical advice.
GMB London has been raising concerns in relation to bubbles with DfE since they first arose and will continue to do so. GMB's current position is that support staff should not be working in more than one bubble because this increases risk. Representation is continuing to be made to the DfE and the feedback from our survey will be part of this. It is important DfE and the government understand what actually happens in schools and hear the real concerns of the support staff who will be expected to work. We all know how important it is for schools to reopen but this must be done in the safest possible way with appropriate changes made where necessary. Every workplace and business is making changes to their working practices and day to day operations and schools should not be any different. The size of the challenge should not prevent changes being made. Your safety, and subsequently that of your family is paramount.
For many of you, who are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable, the protection of shielding has now been lost and the Government states you should return to work in September. GMB is most concerned by this as this is a blanket application and does not consider individual roles and conditions. GMB London is, therefore, advising all members who have been shielding, to write to their Head Teacher and request for a risk assessment, in consultation with an Occupational Health professional to be completed, prior to returning to the workplace. Please find a template letter Here, for you to use in this regard if you so wish.
The DfE will be publishing final guidance for the full reopening of schools in September, on 11th August and once received, we will be in contact with its' details, what it means for school support staff and with advice for the full reopening in September. The latest guidance, to which GMB gave a full response, caused concern for several reasons. Primarily the DfE Guidance is based on the premise that “staff in educational settings tend not to be at any greater risk" but this assertion is based on data from ONS taken between 9th March and 25th May, when schools were closed and only open to up to 2% of pupils. GMB London has raised this as we believe it is disingenuous to use figures in this way. There are very real concerns and members deserve to have these addressed and listened to. Guidance on the introduction of an enhanced cleaning programmes states there should be more regular cleaning of toilets and classrooms being cleaned in between use but there is no extra money being made available to schools to pay for such cleaning services. The latest survey results show that additional cleaning duties are falling to classroom and office-based staff and this is not acceptable so we will be issuing practical advice on this and other workplace issues you may face in September, in the next week or so.
If you have any questions or worries, please contact your local branch, workplace rep or regional organiser. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nobody understands your role and your workplace better than you and therefore it is essential for you to contribute to your risk assessment and any discussions with your school about the full reopening in September. GMB is here to support and advise you and we will produce a checklist for you to use to make sure everything is in place for when you return to school. We need to stand together, supporting one another as together we are stronger and together we can make a difference. If you have any colleagues who are not already in a Union, they can join online here https://www.gmb.org.uk/join-gmb.
Stay safe and we will be in touch again soon.
With best wishes,
Lisa Bangs, GMB London Region Organiser — Schools and Academies
Keith Williams, GMB London Region Senior Organiser
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