With increased COVID-19 transmission rates caused by a new variant of the virus, huge pressure on NHS services and most local authorities being placed under higher tier restrictions, the situation facing school staff and school communities is unprecedented.
In the circumstances UNISON does not believe a full re-opening of those schools where pupils are due to start in the week beginning 4 January is justified, the vast majority of which are primary schools.
It will not provide a safe environment for pupils or school staff, particularly as infection rates are expected to rise following the Christmas period.
UNISON is clear that members who work in schools have a right to a safe working environment. They should not have to work where they (or others) face serious and imminent danger.
UNISON’s advice to members whose schools are due to open to all pupils this week is that it is, in our view, unsafe for them to attend the workplace at present.
Our advice is that members should decide to advise their head teacher or employer that they do not think they should attend the workplace as normal but are willing to carry out any duties (or alternative agreed duties) at their grade that can be undertaken from home, or to be in school if supporting provision and the learning of key worker and vulnerable children is necessary.
Further advice and a model letter for members to send to their head teacher/employer explaining this can be found here.