Unite, which represents school support staff throughout the UK, has warned that the government’s decision to fully re-open schools in England on March 8 risks increasing Covid-19 rates and threatens the health of children, all school workers and their families.
Unite officer with national responsibility for schools, Caren Evans said, “The government and the prime minister are once again guilty of gambling with the health of the nation.
“The scientific advice clearly advised a phased return to schools but the prime minister apparently knows better,” she added. “Once again the UK is guilty of failing to learn from the good practice of other nations including Scotland and Wales which are undertaking a phased return.
“Our members want to see all children back in school but this needs to be in a safe and ordered manner.
“Schools have been open throughout the pandemic and support staff have continued to play a key role in ensuring that children are safe, cared for and receiving the appropriate education and support,” Evans continued. “They are now faced with the additional stress of the uncertainty of not knowing how schools will safely operate when all pupils return.
“There is currently huge uncertainty about how mass testing will work and how this and mask wearing will actually be enforced.
“The bottom line is that no worker should be placed in danger. Covid infection rates are still far higher than they were in September when schools first fully re-opened,” she went on to say. “If safety is compromised school support staff should utilise their legal right and remove themselves from that danger.”
Unite will be providing updated information to its members to ensure that all risks assessments and safe working practices have been updated before school’s reopen and that they have been fully consulted.
Unite will be reminding its members that like all workers, they have the right under sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act, in cases of “serious and imminent danger”, to remove themselves from the workplace until the matter is resolved.
Unite recognises how difficult it is for school staff to utilise this right and is advising them that they should immediately inform the school’s management about any safety concerns and, if the matter is not immediately resolved, to contact their regional officer for further advice.
By Barckley Sumner