Following full consideration of Welsh Government’s Keep Education Safe: Operational guidance for schools and settings published 10 June, public sector union UNISON is in strong opposition to widening access to schools from 29 June and has called for the Minister to urgently review her decision.
UNISON has drafted workplace guidance and following a full assessment believes the guidance does not provide enough direction or clarity and there is not enough time to ensure the safety of staff and pupils in schools by late June.
Jonathan Lewis, UNISON schools forum Chair, said:
“UNISON is not prepared to compromise the safety of teaching assistants, cleaners, caterers, caretakers or administrative staff in schools.
“We have considered the operational guidance and there simply doesn’t contain enough detail, particularly within the short time constraints.
“Of course school support staff want to get back to work in schools, but we cannot be expected to take unnecessary risks to fulfil that within a few short weeks.
“Robust planning takes time. We will continue to work with Welsh government, local authorities and other stakeholders to plan and assess a return to schools, but it cannot be a rushed job.
“We are confident thorough planning could take place over the summer in time for the start of term in September. We urge the Education Minister to take a sensible approach, in line with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, and postpone re-opening until later in the year.”
Rosie Lewis, UNISON schools lead, said:
“We’ve assessed the guidance and UNISON is absolutely clear that we cannot support the reopening of schools at the end of June. The risks are too high.
“We don’t believe there will be enough cleaning staff to fulfil the mammoth task of keeping schools clean. We don’t think enough school support staff will be available to allow safe staffing levels for the extended week.
“The operational guidance around social distancing and who is clinically vulnerable is in conflict with other government guidance. We are yet to see any guidance around the antibody testing and wider roll out of the test, trace and protect system. The list goes on.
“We are inundated with queries from school support staff from across Wales who are anxious about the Minister’s proposals.
“It is crucial that staff and parents are confident about children returning to schools, and it’s fairly clear that the rush to get back later in June is not supporting that.
“I am no longer convinced the Minister is putting wellbeing at the heart of her strategy and we are calling for her to urgently review these timescales and work with trade unions to reopen schools in September.”
Notes to editors
Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer on 07816 53 83 97