We hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.
GMB understands this is a really anxious time for school support staff and many of you will be unsure of what you can expect and where you stand in relation to the wider reopening of schools from 1st June. The DfE has made clear though that Monday 1st June is not a mandatory date for the wider reopening of schools and indeed many schools will be opening to a wider group of pupils later than this.
Attached with this email, is a Frequently Asked Questions document which covers many of the concerns being shared with us. It does not cover every eventuality but hopefully it will be useful in providing you with some reassurance about what you can expect. Your safety matters and as always if you have any specific concerns, which are not addressed in the FAQs, please get in touch with your branch or regional organiser, or contact us at the Schools Team London email address.
GMB has made clear throughout, that it is willing to work with government on the issue of schools opening to more pupils and GMB nationally is continuing to meet with DfE, TUC and all Education Unions to ensure the voice of school support staff is heard and their interests are represented. This is so important as school support staff make up over 50% of the school workforce.
If your school is reopening on Monday, please make sure you are safe and comfortable with anything that is being asked of you. If you do feel unsafe please speak out and if you are asked to do anything which is not part of usual role and places you (or others) at risk it is ok to say no. As you know, GMB has written to all Head Teachers outlining its expectations for its members health and safety and GMB does not expect Head Teachers to be making unsafe or unreasonable requests. Whilst during this crisis we all need to work together, this spirit of cooperation should not be exploited or taken to mean support staff undertaking duties outside of their normal role.
GMB has highlighted a significant potential safety issue for our Members to DfE in relation to what happens when somebody within a school setting either becomes symptomatic, or tests positive for coronavirus. The guidance states that if a pupil or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days and will have access to a test and will be encouraged to get tested. If they choose to take the test and it is positive then the rest of their class or group, including staff, should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. GMBs’ concerns with this are, that as the advice stands, members could find themselves having to continue working and attending school, even if they could be infected because someone has chosen not to take the test. Additionally, when someone does test positive, everyone who has been in class or worked with them gets sent home but only when the test results are known. This means that during the period between someone going home, getting tested and getting the results staff and children still have to attend school whilst waiting for test results and are potentially spreading the infection further. It would seem logical that if someone displays symptoms, all those who have been in contact with them go home straightway and return if there is a negative result rather than the way being proposed. GMB is still waiting for a response from DfE but is aware from sight of many risk assessments that this gap in DfE guidance is extending to individual schools/Trusts risk assessments. In light of the fact GMB has not had a response from DfE, we would urge you take this matter up with your school to ensure it is addressed and you are as safe as possible.
There has still not been any guidance from DfE concerning the proposed reopening of secondary schools on 15th June but as soon as GMB receives anything, we will share it with you.
Please feel free to share this update with your colleagues and if someone is not already in a union they can join GMB online at www.gmb.org.uk/join-gmb. There has never been a more important time for school support staff to come together and organise to show their collective strength.
Being a member of GMB means you should feel confident in addressing any issues you may be facing, knowing you are supported by your Union. If you do not currently have a GMB representative in your school and would be interested in becoming the rep, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to discuss the role with you. Together we can make a difference.
With kind regards
Keith Williams and Lisa Bangs
Supporting Support Staff Bulletin
Posted: 29th May 2020