COVID Workforce Issues Update - Education Recovery Programme Update
The First Minister's announcement yesterday on schools, and early years and has been made in conjunction with the publication of national guidance for schools. Guidance on ELC is expected to be published mid June. UNISON has been involved in the development of this guidance.
The FM's announcement was that: "from Monday teachers and staff can return to schools to prepare for their reopening. From next Wednesday childcare will be available to more people, for example vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Childminding services and fully outdoor nursery provision can start to reopen next Wednesday too, with guidance for child minders being issued from Monday."
This does not mean that all schools will re-open to staff on Monday 1 June or that all staff will be expected to return to their workplaces on Monday. Your Employer will communicate with you about what is expected of you, now that the announcement has been made.
There is a great deal more work to be done to ensure the safety of staff with increased numbers of children attending.
There are key steps and checks in the national guidance:
1.Trade unions (your local branch) need to be involved in local planning to ensure agreement round safe opening of schools and early learning centres. At best that work is in its early stages, but will now accelerate at pace
2.There needs to be agreed risk assessments produce before workplaces become operational.
3.If prepared at school level, there will be very limited , if any , pupil attendance at schools in June ( P.1 and S.1 transition groups)
UNISON'S aim is to ensure the safety of staff who are currently working and other workers as they return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months.
UNISON's key concerns (for all branches) are:
•Testing, tracing and isolation (TTI): needs to be in place to ensure children are not bring Covid-10 into schools – see the earlier information circulated on the Test and Protect scheme.
•Appropriate guidance round safety and infection control needs to be in place.
•Guidance needs to implemented in settings.
•Risk assessments need to be done for settings but also for some staff who have specific health concerns and for some pupils.
•Training for staff re new ways of working re COVID-19.
•Cleaning plans and supplies for COVID-19: who, what when how often.
•Appropriate PPE: what it is for settings and staff? PPE supplies need to then be available in appropriate quantities.
•Decision need to be made about the safe capacity of individual settings.
•Space in school office? Should admin and clerical staff continue to work from home. What support and equipment will they need.
•Safe drop off and collection plans need to be organised.
•School transport plans need to be in place.
•Staff room space/cleaning needs to be reviewed.
•Equipment sharing; what can be shared and how is it kept clean?
•Changes to staff/child ratios to meet COVID-19 new ways of working.
•Utilising more outdoor space: a great deal of work is needed to put more outdoor space into safe use.
Branches will continue to take part local discussions with employers particularly round any plans for expanding the service to offer childcare and summer clubs. The Scottish Government has agreed that trade unions involvement is crucial to the ending of “lockdown”. We need to ensure that this is a reality on the ground.
Trade unions have health and safety expertise and should be included at the start of any local planning round expansion and reopening. Risk assessments and then action to mitigate risks need to be in place to ensure that workers are safe.
A further round of discussions will be required on how schools are to operate from August - return date; part-time face to face and remote learning and implications for all staff; etc.
UNISON is here to advise you and guide you through this challenging phase of return to work post lockdown.