Prime Minister’s plan to increase pupil numbers in schools before they are safe – urgent advice for members
You will no doubt have heard the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday that the government intends to increase the number of children attending early years settings and primary schools in England from 1 June.
At UNISON we have always been clear that we want to work with government on the issue of schools opening to more pupils. However we firmly believe schools should only increase numbers when it is safe to do so for pupils, parents and staff. Any plan to reopen schools needs to address a range of issues including PPE, testing, tracing, isolation and social distancing. Government has to date failed to deliver on these vital safety measures.
The devolved nations have decided that it is not currently safe to increase numbers in schools, so why is the UK government being so cavalier with the lives and wellbeing of pupils and staff in England?
We are calling for a meeting with the government to work out a safe plan for getting staff back to work safely. So we are advising members not to engage with planning for a return to school from 1 June just yet. But keep an eye out on our website and Facebook page for urgent updates.
Please be assured this is about putting pressure on the government, not your individual school.
We need your views
Can you take a couple of minutes to tell us what you think?
Whatever type of school setting you work in, your answers will help us put pressure on government to hit the brakes until there’s a proper plan in place.
You’re the experts on what works in schools and you need to be heard.
Our key safety tests
Along with the other education unions, we have written to the Education Secretary outlining the key tests we believe must be met before schools in England can be safely reopened. They include:
- No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a test and trace scheme
- A joint taskforce to agree statutory guidance
- Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families
- Additional resources for enhanced cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
- Local autonomy to close schools where testing finds clusters of new cases
Fighting for you
From calling out the government for repeatedly forgetting about support staff; to challenging its claim that no education staff need PPE; to campaigning for those who live with someone in a vulnerable group to work from home – we’re working nationally and locally to protect you.
If you have any concerns about the situation in your school, or what you’re being asked to do, please get in touch with your local branch for support.
FAQs for you
We have a full set of FAQs on our dedicated page of advice for school support staff. We keep them constantly updated and they cover pay, operational issues, furlough, home working and health and safety. Whenever there are new developments, come here for advice you can trust.
Get all our latest updates
We post regular news and updates on our dedicated Facebook page for UNISON members working in schools. School staff from all over the UK share advice, support each other and have lively discussions, so we’re really keen to encourage more members like you to join us there.
Over the next few days we will continue working with other education unions to press government to change course. We also have a meeting of our national schools committee where we will feed in your views.
Thank you so much for everything you are doing. We could not be more proud that you are in UNISON.
UNISON Head of Education