Shocking COVID infection rates in Early Years and Nursery sector

These figures provided by the Government fly in the face of their propaganda that “schools are safe” as our branch is only too aware Nursery Schools and Early Years settings were not included in the latest lockdown plans.

The Government made a political decision at the time to ignore the science and force the settings to reopen fully.

Last week they continued their bullying approach to this sector by threatening to cuT their funding unless they all fully reopened.

Does the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson even read his own Departments reports???

Clearly not looking at their own latest figures

“Reported coronavirus (COVID-19) notifications by registered early years and childcare settings.  Updated 25 January 2021.”

Link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reported-coronavirus-covid-19-cases-by-registered-early-years-and-childcare-settings

Barnet UNISON asking for the NSL Parking Service to be suspended during lockdown.

Barnet UNISON statement:

When lockdown was first instigated in March last year the Parking Service was temporarily suspended not just in Barnet but across a number of London Councils.

We are now in a more critical situation in that this latest COVID strain is clearly more transmissible with 1 in 30 Londoners testing positive for COVID.

The London Mayor has stated “We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

Our members are genuinely fearful that there is a very real and present risk to themselves and a risk to their families. There is increased risk of contracting COVID when travelling to and from work on public transport and it is widely accepted that there is an increased risk for members of the BAME community. Please note a high proportion of the NSL workforce are from the BAME community

Our members working for NSL are at a loss to understand why the Parking Service which is not an emergency service is carrying on as business as usual.

The spirit of the lockdown appears to be trying to limit the mixing and movement of people to only those services which are critical.

Parking Enforcement is not am essential/critical service.

Barnet UNISON will be organising a zoom meeting for our NSL members and will be reporting back to them as to what I have been doing on their behalf.

We are asking that in light of the mounting pressure on our London Hospitals and NHS staff can the decision to keep Parking Services be reviewed as a matter of urgency?

End.

 

UNISON and NEU point out Government Minister is wrong about legal advice on safety

 

IMPORTANT: This is the joint trade union email sent to all Schools and Leaders. 

 

“Dear XXX

We apologise for writing to you at such a difficult time. We know the intense pressure schools are under, both as a result of Covid-19 and because of the repeated sudden changes in Government policies.

However, yesterday the Department for Education (DfE) e-mailed you about recent advice UNISON and the National Education Union (NEU) gave its members on the safety of face-to-face teaching in schools.

This email followed Gavin Williamson saying in Parliament: ‘I’d like to thank both the National Education Union and UNISON for recognising the fact that the action that they took and the advice that they gave their members on Sunday was incorrect and that they have withdrawn that advice”. Gavin Williamson was simply wrong. At no point have UNISON or the NEU said the guidance and advice to members was incorrect.

That advice was issued before 4 January when Government was directing all schools to remain fully open to all pupils. On the 4 January, Government directed the closure of schools except for the attendance of vulnerable children and those of critical workers. Because of this radical change of Government direction, we removed the advice on section 44 from our websites. But this emphatically does not mean we believe face-to-face work with full or near full classes in schools is safe in the current circumstances – far from it. Neither does the removal of this advice from our websites indicate that we do not believe it was the right advice to give at the time.

Contrary to the impression given by the DfE circular, the existence of the new strain of the virus greatly exacerbates the serious risks to the health and safety of those working in schools. It is irrelevant that the new strain of the virus may not cause more serious illness in those children or adults who are infected by it. The increase in risk arises from the fact that the new strain is highly transmissible, between 50-74% more transmissible than pre-existing variations of Covid-19, according to London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The historic data on infection rates among teachers referred to by the DfE fails to capture the greatly increased threat arising from the new strain.

It is because of the new strain that infection rates and the R number have dramatically increased since December. It was precisely because of the “increase in risk associated with the new variant” that SAGE recommended closing schools as part of a strategy of strengthening control measures at its meeting on 22 December. That is why the Government finally decided to close schools to most pupils; and that is why school staff faced a greater risk of catching Covid-19 than they did before. This is, or should be, obvious to the DfE and Government.

In that light, is completely inadequate for the DfE to assert that the existing controls in school “create an inherently safer [sic] environment for children, young people and staff” and that the “way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant”. Members who work in schools have a right to work in a safe working environment, and workers who reasonably believe they are facing serious and imminent danger have the right to leave the workplace. The effect of those rights must be fundamentally reassessed owing to the greater risk of transmission posed by the new variant of Covid-19. The same applies to the existing control measures adopted in schools.

We only summarise the relevant legal provisions below. The key point is that all these legal duties must now be viewed in circumstances where Covid-19 is much more transmissible than it was before owing to the new strain.

  • Schools owe duties under s 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees. This includes a duty to provide work systems and work environments which are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health. Schools owe similar duties to others, who are not in their employment, under s.3 of the Act.
  • Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health and safety affected by the conduct of the employer’s undertaking. The risk assessment must be reviewed whenever there is a “significant change in the matters to which it relates”. The new strain of Covid-19 triggers this duty.
  • Employers must establish appropriate procedures which enable employees to leave or stop work if they are exposed to serious, imminent and unavoidable dangers.
  • Measures for controlling risks to health and safety must be adopted in accordance with a hierarchy of measures set out in Schedule 1 to the 1999 Regulations. The primary duty is “avoiding risks”, followed by “evaluating risks which cannot be avoided” and then “combating the risks at source”. All these duties point towards avoiding face-to-face teaching and teaching on-line given the high risk of transmission posed by the new strain.
  • While there is a duty to provide suitable PPE to those who are exposed to risks to health and safety, this is only intended as a last resort, where a “risk has not adequately been controlled by other means”.
  • Schools owe duties to assess risks and to protect employees against exposure to biological agents, such as the new strain of Covid-19, under the COSSH Regulations 2002.
  • Employers must inform and consult with safety representatives under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977 (and the linked regulations where no union is recognised) on all matters to do with health and safety. This should include consultation on the appropriate steps to take in light of the risks posed by the new strain of Covid-19.
  • Finally, under sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees are protected from detriment or dismissal where there exist circumstances of danger which they reasonably believe to be serious and imminent, and they leave or propose to leave, or otherwise refuse to return to their place of work. There are also protections under these provisions for those who take appropriate steps to protect themselves or others in circumstances which the employee reasonably believes amounts to a serious and imminent danger., These rights remain very relevant to those engaged in face-to-face work in schools, especially in light of the new strain of Covid-19. Employees must not be subjected to any disadvantage, such as deductions from pay, where they exercise these rights.

We hope that that this makes our position clear and corrects the impression given by the e-mail from the DfE.

Finally we would like to show our appreciation for the work of our sister head teachers unions NAHT and ASCL during this difficult period. We have shared this letter with them and know that they are as exasperated with the Government as you are.

 

 

Mass Testing in Schools –  UNISON update 23/12/20

UNISON’s National Schools Committee and representatives of UNISON’s FE committee met with Department for Education (DfE) and NHS Test and Trace officials on Tuesday 22nd December to discuss the Government’s plans for mass testing of school staff and pupils in secondary schools and colleges in England in January.  Amongst a host of issues the committee highlighted concerns about the reliability of the proposed tests, numbers and roles of staff that would be involved, potential increased workloads, full training, availability of appropriate PPE, face coverings  and  the roll out of the programme to Primary  and Special  Schools.

In particular the committee made clear that whilst we support the use of mass testing in schools, that due to concerns with the high rate of false negative lateral flow test results , this test should not be used as an alternative to self-isolation of close contacts and bubbles following conformed Covid cases.  The British Medical Journal, World Health Organisation,  Royal Society of Statisticians and Royal College of Pathologists have all warned that these tests can miss a substantial proportion of cases and should not be used alone to identify the infection.   Additionally, government figures from a mass testing pilot in Liverpool in over 5,000 people without symptoms showed that up to half of positives were missed, which included up to 30% who had high viral loads and so had a higher risk of infecting others.  Recent press reports have also suggested that  some of these community based pilots may be suspended whilst further analysis is carried out.

Therefore UNISON calls on the DfE not to rush ahead with  programme in January, but to work with schools on a sensible timetable.  It is also vital that the Department amends its mass testing guidance to make clear that  schools should use testing only as an ‘additional’ measure to identify potential asymptotic cases and not  as an alternative to self-isolation of all close contacts and bubbles. DfE communications should also explain that the lateral flow test cannot confirm that an individual has not been infected with Covid-19, as this could lead to a false sense of security by people who test negative, which could lead them to unintentionally spread the virus.

We also call on the DfE to advise schools to continue on-line learning in January  beyond the first week currently proposed.  Full re-opening should only commence when schools and local public health authorities  are  satisfied that  local infection rates are at levels which make it safe for staff, pupils and communities  to return. We continue to call on government to rapidly expand the provision of laptop and internet access to ensure that all pupils have access to online learning.

UNISON’s schools committee previously agreed that:

  • We support mass testing in schools to try stop the spread of the virus (on a sensible timetable)
  • Any testing site in a school must be fully planned and risk assessed with union engagement
  • Staff should only undertake the testing duty if they volunteer, and if they are comfortable with their competence after appropriate training – in line with Department for Education guidance ‘Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions’.
  • Staff involved in the testing programme should have correct PPE, appropriate clinical oversight and clear guarantees around any potential liabilities
  • The work of staff volunteering to participate should not be passed to other current staff, who are already overworked.
  • Any additional staff time must be fully paid at the appropriate rate
  • Due to reported high percentage of false negatives generated by the ‘lateral flow test’ being proposed it should only be used an additional measure. Bubbles and self-isolation, alongside all additional other safety measures, should be retained for the foreseeable future.
  • Staff asked to take a test themselves  as part of a mass lateral flow testing programme where cases have not been identified, may do so voluntarily, but it should not be compulsory. UNISON  will encourage staff to participate fully in the testing programme, subject to the above points

 

Important update for Barnet UNISON members in schools.

Dear Member

UNISON National has responded to widespread calls for advice for all of our members working I schools, nurseries and early years settings.

The draft email below is for members to send to their Head Teacher.

Please copy in Barnet UNISON when you send in the email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Model letter for UNISON members in schools, nurseries and early years in England

 

Dear [insert name of head/employer],

Re: Health & Safety

I am writing to you following the increase in transmission and infection rates currently recorded across England.

You are, I am sure, aware that you have legal duties to protect the health, safety and welfare of your staff and pupils. Those duties arise under the following legislation: –

  • Sections 2 and 3 of the Health & Safety Act 1974
  • Regulations 3 and 8 of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Regulation 4 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
  • Regulation 4 of the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • Regulation 7 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

The most recent advice from SAGE is that schools should not open in January[1] other than for children of key workers and vulnerable children. This is because the scientific advice is that it is not safe for schools to open. There are new variants of Covid-19 that are highly infectious and infection rates have increased significantly since schools closed.

I appreciate that measures have been in place since September to allow the school to open but according to SAGE those measures may no longer be sufficient. They state in their most recent report: –

The introduction of Tier 4 measures in England combined with the school holidays will be informative of the strength of measures required to control the new variant but analysis of this will not be possible until mid-January.

Based on the above I do not believe that it is safe for me to return to [insert name of school].

If I do attend [name of school] I believe that this will present a serious and imminent danger to my health and safety.

I am therefore writing to inform you that I am exercising my contractual right not to attend an unsafe place of work. I believe that not attending work in the current circumstances is an appropriate step for me to take for the following reasons:

  1. The dangers that are preventing me from attending work are the risk of contracting coronavirus and or spreading coronavirus to others.
  2. The person(s) I am seeking to protect are myself, my family, our pupils, their families, my colleagues, their families and members of the public.

 

  1. I believe that this danger is serious because coronavirus infection is potentially fatal and has already resulted in more than 73,512 deaths in the UK with a significant up surge in recent weeks.

 

  1. I believe that, if I were to attend work, the danger would be imminent because before Christmas the highest infection rates were in children of school age, and the new variant may be more transmissible amongst students than previously.

 

  1. I will be happy to return to the workplace once SAGE is satisfied that the R rate has decreased, scientific advice has been produced on safety measures required to make schools more “Covid secure”, risk assessments have been updated and any necessary further safety measures implemented.

 

In the meantime, I am of course willing to carry out any of my duties or alternative agreed duties at my grade that can be undertaken from my home, and to be in school supporting provision and the learning of key worker and vulnerable children where necessary.

Yours sincerely,

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/948606/s0991-sage-meeting-74-covid-19.pdf

 

Important:

Please note this advice applies to all primary schools, special schools, SEND and early years settings in England.

You can read the advice in full on the UNISON website here

https://www.unison.org.uk/january-schools-advice/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2%20Jan%20branch%20email&utm_source=Education&utm_content=Advice%20for%20members

 

 

 

 

Update on the Barnet UNISON Term Time Pay Campaign

Dear members,

Firstly, I hope you, your family and friends are keeping well and have been coping through this protracted period of anxiety and isolation caused by Covid19.

Owing to the virus, Barnet UNISON’s work regarding the term-time pay dispute was temporarily curtailed. This impacted my job as campaign organiser.

I am pleased to tell you that I am now able to resume my union role.

Barnet UNISON remains committed to trying to gain the best possible outcome for all members who have been discriminated against as a result of the incorrect formula being used to calculate your pay.

Many of you have already completed and submitted a hard copy of the CASE form that we have passed on to the union’s solicitors who are dealing with this collective grievance.

There are, however, lots of members who did not respond to our previous communications or complete a form.

This may be because I was unable to secure a meeting in your school prior to lockdown owing to a lack of response from school management. Our branch Secretary, John Burgess, sent letters to all Head Teachers and members but we did not receive responses from everyone. In addition, growing concerns around the virus began to interrupt my work towards the end of February.

Action Plan:

  • The branch will commence a series of regular monthly updates on the campaign so please check your emails.
  • I will be making as much contact with members as I can to advise and guide you, and help you submit a CASE form to our solicitors.
  • Your particular school may have already rectified the formula and back-dated pay for a specific period of time. If this applies to you please let me know.
  • Accepting any changes to your pay does not in itself prohibit you from submitting a claim. However, we advise you against signing anything until you have sought advice from UNISON.

There is no guarantee that the branch will win exactly what we aim for on your behalf but there is strength in numbers. The more members who decide to make a claim as part of the collective grievance, the greater our chances of success.

I am unlikely to be able to visit any schools for the foreseeable future because of the rules regarding gatherings and social distancing. Now is, therefore, the time for you to organise yourselves. Please consider acting as a workplace convenor or co-convenor with one of your colleagues.

We have created a streamlined CASE form for completion online. You simply need to populate it and return as an attachment by email. I will be sharing detailed guidance on this soon. Please note, we are now unable to process paper copies of the form as we are not operating from the branch office.

If you require any further advice prior to the next communication from the branch, you can email me.

Take care & stay safe.

Kind Regards

Nadia Joseph

Term Time Pay Organiser

Barnet UNISON

contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

 

 

Breaking News: Covid Plus Joint Trade Union proposals

Dear Barnet UNISON members

The following Joint Trade Union proposals were sent to Barnet Council on Wednesday 4 November 2020.

We will update members as soon as we have a response.

UNISON National issue this statement on schools which you can view here

 

Joint Trade Union statement

COVID Plus. Front line workers

For the purposes of this proposal frontline means workers who cannot work from home.

  1. All staff who are deemed clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable to stay at home for lockdown on full pay.
  2. All frontline staff to receive a monthly COVID payment for the duration of the Pandemic in recognition of the important role they playing in the provision of frontline services and the simple fact frontline workers can’t work from home and have to bear the costs of travel and navigate the risks of travel on public transport.
  3. All frontline workers to have weekly COVID tests.
  4. All frontline workers to receive full pay if they have to isolate or are unable to work due to COVID.
  5. All frontline workers to have unlimited access to counselling services during this pandemic in recognition of the mental stress working with COVID brings to this workforce.
  6. If staff have to work from home due to fact their children are sent home from their school due to COVID then they should remain on full pay.
  7. All COVID related absences whilst recorded should not be used for sickness absence recording.
  8. Any staff having to make emergency visits abroad to visit a dying relative or attend a funeral should receive full pay during the quarantine period.

COVID Plus for home workers.

  1. All staff who are deemed clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable to stay at home for lockdown on full pay.
  2. All workers to have unlimited access to counselling services during this pandemic in recognition of the mental stress working with COVID brings to this workforce.

 

  1. If staff have to work from home due to fact their children are sent home from their school due to COVID then they should remain on full pay and it should be recognised that the worker has a reduced capacity to carry out their work duties.
  2. All COVID related absences whilst recorded should not be used for sickness absence recording.
  3. Any staff having to make emergency visits abroad to visit a dying relative or attend a funeral should receive full pay during the quarantine period.
  4. To recognise the damaging effect working from home has on both physical activity levels and mental health. Also to recognise that the normal practice of leaving home to travel to and from work also of travelling between venues for meetings are now lost to the home worker leading to a more compressed working routine with little opportunity to leave the home. Therefore give a one hour paid daily break to home working staff in addition to their lunch break to enable them to have down time from their computer screens and so that they can physically leave their home for a walk or partake in some form of exercise.
  5. Protocol for structuring virtual meetings to enable time away from the screen e.g. starting meetings at quarter past the hour implying that there should be a 15min break before the meeting starts.
  6. Supervision to incorporate questions relating to mental health wellbeing and physical health as well as checking on the home set up (it should not be assumed home set up is constantly the same).
  7. For a designated person to randomly contact 10 workers per week to find out from them their experience with respect to supervision, welfare checks etc.
  8. Staff with children at home should be given a designated amount of time to dedicate to their child’s learning and leisure.
  9. Key workers working from home who have a clinically or extremely clinically vulnerable child should be allowed to continue working from home if schools are closed but only open to key worker’s children.

Stay safe

Best wishes

John Burgess

Branch Secretary

Barnet UNISON.

COVID Update: UNISON National Update for members in schools

Dear UNISON members

Please read extract from UNISON National Schools Committee Statement – 2 November 2020

“Therefore, during the new lockdown – to ensure the safety of pupils, staff and the community – schools and nurseries should move back to the arrangements implemented during the first lockdown earlier this year. This would mean keeping schools and nurseries open for children of key workers and vulnerable children, ensuring that they maintain their education and get a hot meal. Online learning should be put in place for all other children – with government providing IT equipment for disadvantaged pupils, so that they can learn from home effectively.

However, as the government intends to push the new measures through parliament on Wednesday, urgent steps are needed now to protect staff and pupils in schools that are open:

These should include:

1. Reduce risks by maximising social distancing and implement existing contingency plans for reduced class sizes and home learning (schools already have these plans in plans in place).

2. Reduce bubble sizes and introduce rotas to reduce risks.

3. Staff remaining within one bubble; so reducing the risk of spread across the school.

4. Moving whole bubbles to home learning where a pupil or member of staff develops coronavirus symptoms or receives a positive test.

5. Ensure that all school staff have priority access to the test and trace system.

6. Require all pupils and staff to wear face coverings while at school (including classrooms) as is policy in other countries e.g. France. Clear face masks to be made available so that pupils and staff who need to read lips are not disadvantaged. There should be exemptions for pupils and staff who cannot wear face coverings.

7. Move all clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), clinically vulnerable (CV) and pregnant staff (3rd trimester) to home working as they are at the highest risk from becoming seriously ill if they catch the virus. CEV and CV staff who cannot work from home to stay at home on full pay.

8. Individual risk assessments for staff in high risk groups, such as Black staff, men over 50 and those with a BMI over 30. Staff identified as being at particular risk should also be allowed to work from home.

9. Permit and encourage staff (and pupils aged 16 and over) to use the NHS COVID app in school, including classrooms, as per DfE guidance.

10. Stronger measures on school transport and at the school gates to stop mixing, ensure social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.

11. Increase funding to schools to cover the increased costs of cleaning

To read full UNISON STATEMENT by clicking on link below

UNISON-National-Schools-Committee-Statement

 

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