COVID-19 latest schools advice and guidance

Dear colleague,

Urgent update following government confirmation that primary schools can increase pupil numbers from 1 June

In response to the Government’s announcement today that it is going ahead with plans to encourage primary schools and nurseries to increase pupil numbers from 1 June, we have sent this email to UNISON members.

UNISON has consistently opposed the expansion of pupil numbers in primary schools in England on 1 June. Our campaign at branch, region and national level has had successes. The government has delayed pupil expansion in secondary schools until 15 June and many local authorities, academies and local schools have decided that 1 June is too early, this has meant thousands of staff will not be going in on Monday, which will hopefully relieve some of the pressure on branches.

However, many staff will still be expected to go in and we have all been inundated with requests by members asking for advice on whether they can refuse to go in on 1 June. Following discussion with NEU, other unions and our legal team the email to members includes a model letter for members who have serious concerns about their health and safety and face the prospect of being forced into the workplace under unsafe conditions from 1 June. We have asked members to specify these concerns in their letter by highlighting where the school is not meeting the joint unions risk assessment checklist. They can also include scenarios where they have not been consulted on risk assessment.

Further, we have also produced a letter that school-based reps can ask members in a workplace to sign up to – we understand that it may not be practical for branches to organise this and would expect the members in the school to make a list. The members’ individual letter will be most important but reps in schools may be able to make use of the letter. NEU are adopting a similar approach.

We understand you are getting lots of members contacting you following the government’s announcement so it is hoped this model members’ letter will provide a way forward and ensure that staff are not forced to attend an unsafe workplace from Monday. As well as protecting members we want to ensure we do everything we can to help branches deal with enquiries and we know you’re snowed under. 

We will also be issuing further updates on our website in the coming days – please keep an eye out.

UNISON guidance and template letter for vulnerable employees

We have a produced a guide for members in vulnerable groups and template letter wording to send to head teachers explaining personal circumstances. The guide covers those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable or vulnerable, employees who live with/care for someone in a vulnerable group, black employees, older employees (over 60), employees who have childcare responsibilities, and employees who are feeling anxious. 

Joint union planning guides/workplace checklists

In our last circular we included the joint union planning guide for primary schools. These have now also been produced for secondary schools and special schools.

The guides are both a commentary on recent Department for Education guidance and a checklist for branches and members to use to ask questions of employers.

This union guide for secondary schools follows recently published Department for Education guidance for secondary schoolsfollowing the government’s announcement of potential wider opening from 15 June. 

UNISON guidance on early years

We have updated our FAQs with specific guidance for members working in early years. This can be found on our dedicated webpage for Covid-19 issues in the FAQ section under ‘Early years/nurseries’.