UNISON continues to work hard to support school support workers as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

Wales specific updates will be placed on this page and we will also continue to provide up-to-date information on our Facebook page.

Message to schools members from UNISON Cymru Wales lead officer for schools, Rosie Lewis, 8.1.21

The First Minister has announced today that online learning will continue at least 29 January when the next three week review of the regulations takes place and schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Unless there has been a significant reduction of cases it is likely that the situation will remain the same until the February half term.

This is welcome and follows concerted pressure from UNISON. We have been calling for online learning to continue until after the February half term, apart for vulnerable children and those children of key workers, along with the other measures to make sure our schools are safe environments for pupils and staff.

The decision to keep nursery provision open has been raised with Welsh Government and this is to be discussed at a meeting later today. We will be challenging the rationale and scientific and medical advice that has led to these settings remaining open.

We continue to hear from support staff members who are being asked to attend school when teachers are being told they can work from home. Pupils who attend school this time round are there to learn, so the provision is not for childcare, it’s for education and as such, both teachers and support staff need to be present as necessary depending on the numbers attending . The message is to work from home where possible so there should not be excessive numbers of staff present when not required.

Please contact your branch if you have any queries or concerns – you can find details of your branch here

Read School support staff FAQs Jan 2021

You can get all the latest information for schools’ members by following the UNISON Cymru Wales school support staff Facebook page 

Please be assured of our continued support.

 

Read UNISON Cymru Wales’ letter to school members 7.1.21

Read our latest press release: Welsh schools must remain closed until February

UNISON previously wrote to the Welsh Government as a matter of urgency calling for an all-Wales decision on the opening of education settings rather than decisions to be made at local authority level.

We are having continued discussions with the Welsh Government and calling for regular, proactive testing of school staff.

Letter to Health Minister

Updated guidance on face coverings

The Welsh Government has updated its operational guidance on the use of face coverings in secondary schools and colleges.

The guidance now states that face coverings should be worn:

  • in all areas outside the classroom by staff and learners in secondary schools and colleges
  • on dedicated school and college transport for learners in year 7 and up
  • by visitors to all schools and colleges, including parents and carers dropping off and picking up children

Read the full announcement from Welsh Government here

Priority testing for symptomatic education workers

The Welsh Government has announced plans to roll out serial testing in secondary schools and colleges from January.

Under this process, pupils and staff identified as close contacts of a positive case would be asked to either self-isolate as normal or to take a lateral flow test at the start of the school day for the duration of the self-isolation period.

Those who test negative would continue attending school as normal, those who test positive would be required to self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test.

Secondary Schools and colleges will be offered support, equipment and training.

The Welsh Government intends to eventually roll out testing to all schools and further education settings. However, in order to ensure there is a model that works and is safe, the roll out will be phased on levels of risk starting with secondary schools and further education settings.

For those in education or childcare settings: if you are symptomatic and experiencing significant barriers in accessing a test via the online booking portal, you can access a test through the Local Health Board Community Testing Units (details of how to access these tests differ depending on the area you are in); information is via this link –

On September 29, Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services, set out the prioritisation for testing in Wales as the Welsh Government move into a new phase of response, these reflect the priorities set out in the  testing strategy. Priority five is to prioritise testing for symptomatic staff working in education or childcare settings where is it needed to keep the settings open.

Read the Minister’s full statement: Written Statement: Prioritisation COVID-19 Testing>

Keeping schools safe

UNISON, along with some of the other unions in schools, has produced a comprehensive checklist covering all school settings, including special schools. It will help school staff and reps when discussing with school leaders arrangements for and consultation on regular thorough reviews of the school risk assessment.

Guidance for vulnerable staff in schools

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable workers – shielding

From December 23rd shielding has been re-introduced in Wales for those people who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable – https://gov.wales/shielding-extremely-vulnerable-people 

‘The advice to those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable has changed. You are advised that you should no longer attend work or school outside the home. We will be sending a letter out in the New Year to confirm this advice to you.’

You can refer your employer to this advice if you need to before you have received your new letter.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should work from home or stay at home on full pay where you cannot work from home.

Clinically Vulnerable workers including pregnant women 

UNISON believes that working from home will also be the safest option for other employees with underlying vulnerabilities or who live with people who are clinically vulnerable.

With the implementation of the new lockdown, the NJC Employers have written to all local authorities, reminding them that NJC guidance jointly agreed with the trade unions still applied. This follows a request from the trade unions to ensure maximum protection for workers who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) or clinically vulnerable (CV). The Employers’ statement, which applies to school staff, includes the following – ‘Employees in both groups should not be expected to attend the workplace. All options for working at home should be considered, as well as for those employees who live with and / or have caring responsibilities for people in the two groups. However, as previously advised, employers will have no option other than to accept that some employees will be staying at home on full pay for the duration of this emergency as they are not able to work from home.”​

Clinically Vulnerable staff should ask for their individual risk assessment to be reviewed. NJC Employers have been advised to follow the same guidance t circulated during the March lockdown for clinically vulnerable staff.

NJC 17 March circular – Coronavirus and working at home 

NJC 23 March circular – COVID-19: critical workers

Please read fuller advice here

Wellbeing 

Welsh Government has commissioned Education Support to undertake a project to support the well-being of the education workforce in Wales as part of the whole school approach towards well-being.

A wellbeing advisor will be appointed to support up to 100 schools across Wales providing services including resilience training and sharing best practice. The charity will also create wellbeing and resource content for HwB and a specific Welsh section on the Education Support website.

Keep up-to-date

We know this is an uncertain time, but UNISON is there for you. You can get updates and network with other school support staff via our Facebook page.

And we cannot emphasise enough, if you have any concerns about your health, safety or wellbeing at work, please contact your for further advice and support.

Courses

Whilst you are visiting our page, we thought you might be interested to learn about some courses from UNISON for members working in schools.

These courses are FREE for anyone living/working in Wales in the schools sector!

School Support Staff e-learning pathway

https://cymru-wales.unison.org.uk/learning/elfypathways

Links

Read the updated Welsh Government advice: Health and well-being for school staff and learners: coronavirus>

Don’t forget you can stay up-to-date with our UNISON Cymru Wales school support staff Face Book page>