A group of school support workers from across Wales met with Education Secretary Kirsty Williams yesterday (Tuesday) to explain what things are really like in schools operating during the coronavirus lockdown.
The meeting was organised by UNISON Cymru Wales and the trade union urged the Minister not to overlook the views of the thousands of support staff in planning for schools to re-open to all students.
School support staff – teaching assistants, administrators, cooks, midday supervisors, cleaners, technicians, receptionists and caretakers, greatly outnumber teaching staff in Welsh schools.
UNISON described the meeting as positive and particularly welcomed the Minister’s statement that a test and trace strategy needs to be in place before more children can be taken back in schools.
Jonathan Lewis, chair of UNISON Cymru Wales School Support Staff Forum, said,
“School support staff have an amazing wealth of experience caring for children and supporting teachers, so it’s essential we have the opportunity to contribute to Welsh government planning during the pandemic.
“No school should open until it is safe to do so. We told Kirsty Williams about our concerns how social distancing will be maintained during the school day including break times or when staff are assisting young children or those with special needs with toiletting and other responsibilities including administering personal care.
“The Minister said a “massive thank you” to every single member of the schools team and praised how quickly staff were able to respond to the new hub system supporting the children of key workers. UNISON is very keen to continue our discussions with the Education Minister on planning for the re-opening of schools to all students.”
Sharon Collier, a school support worker in Blaenau Gwent said,
“The number of coronavirus cases is higher in more deprived areas which also have greater numbers of vulnerable children. We were able to share with the Minister that school support staff in those communities feel they could be more at risk of infection.
“Kirsty Williams was keen to hear UNISON’s views and we were pleased to learn Welsh government intends to provide further guidance on how schools will operate in future as well as training for all members of staff well before schools re-open to all students.
Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer on 07816 53 83 97