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Making Schools Safe

From New Year’s Day onwards GMB has called on Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to extend home learning for all primary school children with the exception of vulnerable children and key workers’ children.

GMB will never play fast and loose with the security of your jobs and whilst most of the country moves towards another lock-down we still need to ensure schools that remain open for key workers and vulnerable pupils are safe.

GMB have taken the decision that the best way we can protect you is by asking you to issue: Letter 1 first (Request for a Revised Risk Assessment) then Letter 2 (Working from Home letter if you feel unsafe).

This two-stage letter process will help to build added protection for you against disciplinary and dismissal.

Letter 1 seeks a revised risk assessment and if this is insufficient you are better protected to raise the H&S breaches to tell your employer why you feel unsafe and want to work from home.

We have spent most of the day making requests for revised risk assessments. If you or your GMB rep has not done this as you read this (and your school remains open after the Prime Minister’s announcement) please do this as a matter of urgency.

Whilst we want members to raise their concerns directly we want to assure you we can collectively support you throughout the process and this is why the GMB has focused on getting Government to take the decision to keep schools open out of the hands of Head Teachers.

For the record (as there has been some misinformation by some) GMB will always provide support and representation for our members regardless of the circumstances particularly where members don’t feel safe at work.

GMB are collectively ensuring we challenge head teachers who have not updated the risk assessments to allow you to work from home.

GMB will always provide support for all members even if they decide not to attend their workplace because they believe that to do so places them at a serious and imminent danger.

You may have seen that other Unions have advised their members that Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act gives members the right to leave their workplace in the face of a serious and imminent risk of danger. Whilst this legislation may give protection against any action being taken by employers, the reality is Section 44 means hasn’t been tested in the context of Covid–19. In the event a member is dismissed for not attending work they could be waiting months to get their case heard in an Employment Tribunal without any pay.

That’s why we feel a two-step process is a better way to keep you protected and allows you to remove yourself from the workplace until it’s safe and further action can be considered.

The Prime Minister’s Announcement

This is a fast-changing situation we are moving to a further lockdown. Westminster Government has been consistently behind the science and are now being brought to pressure and follow the science.

The newly announced school closure (except for key workers and vulnerable children and Early Years) gives the Government across the UK time to put proper protective measures in place that will actually reduce the risk to school staff and pupils. These include:

  • Investing in ventilation systems and heating to ensure that schools do not have to choose between Covid or hypothermia;
  • Providing additional temporary classroom provision, so that bubbles can return to adequate sizes; social distancing can be maintained and ventilation improves; rota provisions put in place to allow staff to alternate work between home and work to limit transmission where risk is high.
  • Recruiting additional temporary support staff to ensure that all bubbles can be properly staffed with no crossing of bubbles;
  • Ramping up the vaccination programme so that all schools’ workers can be vaccinated before schools fully reopen;
  • Implementing a considered approach to Covid testing in schools that addresses the concerns of pupils, parents and staff

The Westminster Government has already dedicated £78 Million to provide testing in schools, and with the many billions that have been spent on Track & Trace and PPE this critical investment should be made now whilst the opportunity is there to truly make schools ‘Covid-secure’.

Pay, Terms and Conditions

GMB School Support Staff work under the pay terms and conditions of the Green Book, apart from a very small number of members in multi-academy trusts with whom we negotiate separately.

GMB is a recognised trade union that has been negotiating pay agreements and Covid guidance that ensure you are paid your wages.

GMB will continue to ensure no workers loses out on pay during Covid-19. Teachers’ Unions have no jurisdiction on your pay terms and conditions of work and do not represent school support staff employed under Local Government Green Book Terms and Conditions.

Stay connected

  1. Contact your local GMB rep if you are worried about your safety at work
  2. If you do not have a workplace rep on-site consider becoming one
  3. Pass this briefing to a non-union member and ask them to join
  4. Stay in touch with us join our GMB Schools group on Facebook and join our mailing list by emailing us at schools@gmb.org.uk
  5. Join a GMB virtual meeting – we arrange these on a weekly basis and will post details on our social media accounts.

Posted: 5th January 2021

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