This coming Monday 22nd February the Prime Minister is due to announce the government’s roadmap to fully re-open schools in England – expected to be from 8th March.
UNISON is to hold an on-line meeting to discuss this and any accompanying guidance from the Department for Education. See below for more informaton.
Wednesday 24th February @ 5pm
Schools opening to all pupils – online meeting for members
UNISON’s recommendations for safer re-opening of schools in England
The government announced on 27 January that it hopes to re-open schools in England on 8 March. UNISON believes that school re-opening should only happen when the science says it is safe, when school risk assessments have been updated, and when appropriate safety measures have been introduced.
We must ensure that schools do not become ‘vectors of transmission’ again. It is vital that the Department for Education (DfE) allows for a staggered approach so that a sudden re-opening does not increase local transmission rates. We believe a phased return and the ability to have flexible rota systems would help to make schools safer.
In a noticeable change in policy, the DfE has constructively engaged with UNISON and other unions in the last few weeks. We are hopeful that this new relationship will result in improved guidance that will make the full return to schools safer.
UNISON has outlined several key measures for schools below that we believe the DfE should implement before schools fully re-open:
- Allow schools to use a rota system/blended learning when schools re-open.
- Split classes into smaller groups to keep bubble sizes as small as possible. If necessary, give schools additional funding to hire extra staff and space to accommodate them. Small bubbles, rotas, and a phased return would help to ensure 2m social distancing.
- Keep staff and pupils within one bubble (except for emergencies) to reduce the risk of cross-transmission and wider closures.
- Subject to a risk assessment, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including medical-grade masks, for staff administering first aid, medical care or personal care activities where social distancing cannot be maintained, for example in some special schools and nurseries.
- Staff and pupils in secondary schools should wear face coverings in all areas of the school, including classrooms. There should be an urgent review of the international evidence for face coverings for pupils in primary schools. Stocks of face coverings, including clear face coverings that facilitate lip-reading, should be made available.
- Review the quality of face coverings and recommendations, noting the banning of home-made masks in schools in France.
- Mass testing can be used as an additional tool, alongside the full maintenance of all other preventative measures such as isolation of contacts of those with symptoms. Home tests must be backed up by access to more reliable PCR tests.
- As part of re-opening, the DfE should ask the government to prioritise vaccinating school staff.
- Provide additional national guidance on ventilation in schools and support local reviews of ventilation in all schools prior to wider re-opening. This guidance should include advice on minimum safe temperatures for classrooms. Classrooms and other school areas with unsafe ventilation should not be used.
- Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) and clinically vulnerable (CV) staff should continue to work from home on full pay until risk from the virus has significantly reduced.
- The DfE should issue urgent guidance requiring that all outsourced staff in schools, such as catering and cleaning staff, must receive full pay when they are required to self-isolate, without any impact on their sickness absence record.
- School staff should not be expected to take on tasks that are beyond their job description or that they are not fully trained and renumerated for. It is unfair to depend on support staff to take on additional work when they have already gone the extra mile to support pupils throughout the pandemic.
- UNISON fully supports catch-up programmes, but they must be properly resourced by the government, with full consideration of the existing financial, administrative, and workload pressures that schools face. Any catch-up programmes should not result in additional workload pressures on already overworked school staff.
- Apply public transport rules on social distancing and face coverings to all school transport.
- Provide additional funding to cover any additional costs incurred by schools to implement these measures. Schools will need additional financial support to re-open safely.
Nursery classes and early years
Although nursery classes have not been formally restricted to vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, many nursery classes have restricted the number of children in classes.
As pupil numbers increase, schools will need to continue to risk assess the impact of increased numbers, particularly around expanding bubbles.
We recognise that social distancing is impossible in an early years settings. When CEV and CV staff are no longer at high risk from community transmission and they choose to continue to work at their early years settings, consideration should be given to finding these staff alternative roles where social distancing can be applied.
Please see the document below for a list of questions and answers relating to COVID-19 testing within schools
Growing our Union… It’s not just personal benefits that a union provides. You too can be part of the movement that gave the world weekends off, the national minimum wage, workplace pensions, the right not to be sacked for being pregnant or sick and many more legal rights.
These achievements have only been possible because people came together to work collectively, for the benefit of millions.
Make sure your friends and colleagues know about unions
UNISON is a large union, with around 1.3 million members. That’s a lot of people to have on your side when there’s trouble. But it could be more.
Across the economy, trade union membership is quite low – and most workplaces will include workers who aren’t members of any union. But the more union members there are at work – the higher our ‘union density’ in the jargon – the stronger our voice and more able we are to protect one another.
And what’s true in individual workplaces and councils, NHS trusts, other public bodies is also true of society as a whole.
The first and most obvious way to grow the movement is to ask people to join. Most people who aren’t in a union give one simple reason: “Because no-one asked.” So let’s ask them. It’s easier than you think.
There’s a saying in union circles that “like recruits like” – in other words, potential members are more likely to be recruited by colleagues they know and trust.
So talk with your colleagues about the union: be honest and be prepared to listen to their concerns and issues.
Please spread the word and help UNISON to grow stronger.
Ask members to call us on 02476 550829 or join online at http://www.joinunison.org
UNISON Learning & Education… It is important that during this pandemic we keep well and look after our mental health. Engaging in learning, improving your skills and continuing with your education is a great way to keep your mind active and your spirits up.
UNISON learning offers free and discounted online courses to all members and we regularly post information about learning, funding and educational opportunities on our learning website.
Visit https://covunisonlearning.wordpress.com/ for the latest information about a Grief and Bereavement Training and Support to Carers course. These sessions are 2.5 hours and delivered by the charity Cruse.
Any queries relating to workplace training, learning, or further education or if you are interested in becoming a Union Learning Rep in your workplace, contact the Branch office on 02476 550829 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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UNISON is proud to have its own welfare support and we are always here help members in times of need. For more information, please call us on 02474 550829
The Branch found out at the same time as college staff that the college is proposing to shut the Henley site. We believe this is a great loss for Coventry as it is a much loved and until the past few years when the college chose to cut courses there a well used site.
Our greatest concern is the loss of nursery provision for the college. This will have a major impact on parents who want to go back to college and who may well struggle now to find suitable childcare. We call upon the college to look again at their decisions and to engage with staff about other opportunities.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been numerous discussions and announcements about the use of leave – including where leave has accumulated that would otherwise have been taken in normal times.
We have urged the employer to take a flexible approach on this – of course from the point of view of mental health and wellbeing members should take leave to ensure they get appropriate rest and recuperation. At the same time, it must be recognised that many members are far more restricted in terms of travel and what this leave can be used for.
There is an agreement that some leave can be carried over, but from what members have told us this may be being applied differently across the council.
We have put together a short survey to allow us to get a picture of the situation, and to where necessary to take up the situation. This has been emailed to all Council staff members of our branch. Contact us direct if you have not received this email. We would be grateful if you would take the time to complete it.
The number of people taking lateral flow tests over the past few weeks has started to drop significantly. We are clear that whilst lateral flow tests are a secondary part of risk management, they are important for identifying those who may be asymptomatic but still able to pass the virus on. We would urge all front-facing workers to consider getting tested on a weekly basis at least for their peace of mind.
We know that many social care staff and vulnerable staff have now been invited to be vaccinated. We know that people have concerns about the safety and content of the vaccines but we would encourage people to get vaccinated. Coventry City Council have helpfully produced the following guidance:
The government has launched the SHARE checklist to tackle the spread of false information about coronavirus and vaccinations.
Recently there has been a lot of false information about coronavirus and the new vaccines designed to tackle it and it’s not always easy to spot. The SHARE checklist is an easy tool to pass on to people in your community to help them know what to look out for before they like, comment or share information they come across online.
If you are looking for information on vaccination safety, please see the NHS guide on Why vaccination is safe and important.
The independent fact-checker Full Fact is also working to fact check and correct misinformation about vaccines and coronavirus and regularly updates its website to tackle the latest false information.
As we all know, the past year has been completely different to any other year and therefore our AGM will be held via teams rather than our normal in-person meeting.
At the AGM you will hear reports from the senior representatives in the branch and you can ask questions and discuss how you would like the union to work over the coming year. Whilst sounding very formal we ensure that the reports focus on the work that we do and the challenges we face across the branch.
Due to changes in the way the branch has had to operate, we also need to adjust our rules in order for us to have online meetings and allow electronic participation in the union. It is of vital importance that as many people attend as possible because we need 150 people to agree to our rule changes. These will be available with the AGM report on the branch website http://www.coventryunison.co.uk prior to the AGM meeting.
If we do not get enough people to our AGM, then we will have to call another meeting shortly afterwards to get an agreement on our rules.
There has never been a more important time to be involved; it is not too late to consider being a contact for where you work or a steward. Why not get involved and add your voice to our branch?
We are delighted to announce, Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana will be speaking at the meeting.
The AGM will take place on Friday 12th March 2020 starting at 5.30 pm. A web link to the meeting has been sent by email to all Members. Please contact the Branch if you have not received this.
Hopefully, we can see as many of our members as possible attend the AGM this year.
The Winter Fuel Grant has been temporarily paused. As expected, demand for this was high. We expect an update next Monday.
The Covid Response Fund offers grants of up to £500 for eligible members who have suffered loss of income due to Covid. Apply here: www.unison.org.uk/covid-19-response-fund-2/
You can still get help for financial hardship due to unexpected circumstances. In an emergency we can usually sort something in 24 hours. Help with shopping bills is possible. We can refer you to local food bank network or apply for shopping vouchers. Contact branch for details of the above.
We can assist with debt. Our debtline is 0800 389 3302. Service details are here: www.payplan.com/unison/
UNISON Benefits Calculator: https://unison.entitledto.co.uk/home/start
We don’t just deal with the financial side of things. Our charity There For You provides a confidential service for members over the phone if you are experiencing personal difficulties, such as long-term illness, recovering from surgery, domestic violence or abuse.
Contact the branch or call: 020 7121 5620