School support must be fully protected or action will be taken warns Unite

Unite, which represents school support staff and school nurses across the UK, is demanding that no shortcuts are taken with their safety during the forthcoming lockdown.

Safety must not be compromised

While Unite fully understands the importance of all children being able to access education, the safety of members must not be compromised. 

If serious safety concerns are identified and immediate action is not taken to remedy them, then Unite will instruct staff to exercise their legal right to withdraw their work until safety measures are fully instigated.

List of measures

Unite is calling for all schools to apply the following measures:

  • Funding for full and adequate PPE
  • Adequate resources provided to clean and maintain schools to ensure a COVID safe learning and working environment
  • Regularly updated risk assessments, that staff can access and are consulted on
  • Social distancing at all times even if this means smaller class sizes
  • Strict safeguards to ensure vulnerable staff e.g. pregnant women, clinically extremely vulnerable and higher risk groups including BAEM, are fully protected
  • Access to testing
  • Transparency of available data on risks to children, families and school staff
  • A plan for remote learning and government-funded resources such as laptops for children learning at home
  • All contracted staff working to support schools guaranteed normal pay if self-isolating or absent for COVID related reasons
  • School nurses to remain in dedicated roles to support whole school communities.

Support staff vulnerable 

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “School staff are feeling incredibly vulnerable and believe their legitimate concerns are being ignored as the country faces the full impact of the second wave of COVID-19 and England prepares for a second national lockdown.

“It is vitally important that children are able to access education but if schools are to stay open then all workers including support staff and nurses must be fully protected at all times.

“Unite will not tolerate the health of our members being compromised and if there is an immediate threat to their wellbeing we will instruct them to withdraw from work.

“As an immediate first step, schools must update full and rigorous risk assessments taking into account any health concerns.

“Many support staff who have serious health concerns are feeling incredibly exposed as the government has removed the shielding protections that the vulnerable could previously utilise.

“The bottom line is that the safety of the whole school community, children, their families and staff must not be compromised.”