Sunday Jan 17, 2021 11:00 AM
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Meeting ID: 820 6544 8996
URGENT: Please read the document issued by the Department of Education yesterday evening.
You can read the full report by clicking on the link below.
This report is an attempt to:
Summary of the report as follows:
This report changes things seriously for Nursery Schools and Early Years setting because it states that unless they fully reopen they will not get the funding they have had for the previous terms.
As we all know thee above settings are opening for pupils of key workers and vulnerable children.
The Government in this report are saying that is not good enough and that they need to fully reopen.
Nursery Schools and Early Years settings need all of our help. Most parents and members of the public will not be aware of this latest attack.
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Whether you have been working throughout the pandemic, been furloughed, working from home, self-isolating or something else, Barnet UNISON understands the impact this may be having on your or a colleagues mental health.
Having good mental health helps us relax more, achieve more and enjoy our lives more. Below are details about websites and organisations to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.
Able Futures can help you manage your mental health at work so you can enjoy more good days. If eligible they provide you nine months advice and guidance from a mental health specialist who can help you learn coping mechanisms, build resilience, access therapy or work with your employer to make adjustments to help your mental health at work.
Call Able Futures free on 0800 321 3137 from 8am to 10.30pm, Monday to Friday or apply online.
Nafsiyat is an intercultural therapy centre, committed to providing effective and accessible psychotherapy and counselling services to people from diverse religious, cultural and ethnic communities in London.
We currently offer intercultural therapy to people living in the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Enfield and Haringey. This therapy is short-term only, but available at no charge.
To access this therapy, you need either to be referred to us, for example by your GP, or you can apply to refer yourself.
NHS Every Mind Matters
Visit the NHS Every Mind Matters website:
If you are having thoughts of suicide, are harming yourself or have thought about self-harm, it’s important to tell someone.
These thoughts and feelings can be complex, frightening and confusing, but you do not have to struggle alone.
If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, contact one of the organisations below to get support right away. Or see further NHS advice on dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency.
Free 24-hour listening support
When life is tough, Samaritans are here to listen at any time of the day or night. You can talk to them about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how difficult.
Call free on 116 123 or visit the Samaritans website
Shout offers confidential 24/7 crisis text support for times when you need immediate assistance.
Text “SHOUT” to 85258 or visit Shout Crisis Text Line
Urgent, non-emergency medical advice
If you need help urgently but are not at risk of death or serious illness, use the NHS 111 non-emergency advice online.
Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.
People with hearing problems can use the NHS 111 British Sign Language (BSL) service.
Crisis support for young people
If you are under 35 and feel that life is not worth living any more, call Papyrus’s HopelineUK from 9am to 10pm weekdays and 2pm to 10pm on weekends.
Call HopelineUK on 0800 068 41 41
Text 07786 209697
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for people in the UK who are down or have hit a wall for any reason.
Call 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Free, anonymous webchat with trained staff
In a life-threatening emergency, phone the emergency services and ask for an ambulance.
When to call 999
When to get help from your GP
It’s important to seek help from your GP immediately if you are experiencing the following symptoms for the first time or are not already receiving care from mental health services/
If you live in England, in most areas you can also refer yourself for free, non-urgent NHS psychological therapy services, also known as IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services, which provide evidence-based treatments for depression and anxiety.
Services remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, so do seek professional help if you think you need it.
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?
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.
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.
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:
UNISON guidance for members working in Special Schools and Colleges
Context: With the new variant of the virus shown to being considerably more transmissible than the version prevalent in 2020 the previous risk assessment will no longer be fit for purpose. As a matter of priority, specialist schools and colleges focus on:
Happy New Year! – Good Riddance to 2020!
Barnet UNISON holds first Branch Meeting of 2021
Barnet UNISON Emergency Branch Meeting 6th January
Barnet UNISON should have increased its zoom account so that more than 100 people could join!!!
Our apologies to all those trying to get onto the call but couldn’t because we only had a capacity of 100. We will be holding another meeting and we will increase the capacity!
We believe the intention of this lockdown is to stop people circulating more than necessary in order to radically reduce the rates of infection. Therefore any work being undertaken which is not absolutely necessary will contribute to the spread of the infection and puts us all at risk.
The Government’s message is being interpreted in all kinds of ways which means, for example, that School A only has a handful of children attending and School B has 60 children attending. We want to help you ensure the wider community stays safe by stopping the more generous interpretation of what the Government is saying.
Key messages from the meeting:
The levels of COVID infection rates means that the NHS is on the brink of breakdown. This means anyone who becomes critically ill may not get the care and attention they could have expected during the summer and further risks people being exposed to life changing disability or death. Both of these outcomes are significant not just for the individual concerned but for their family and friends. This is the context against which we have arrived at our position.
We began the meeting with one minute silence in memory of our members who have died during this pandemic and those who have suffered bereavements.
We acknowledged that the lockdown probably would not have happened by Monday had the trade unions – notably the education trade unions – begun organising their members to send in section 44 letters stating that their workplaces were not safe.
Locally Barnet UNISON had a zoom meeting for nursery workers on Sunday 3rd January and half an hour after the end of the meeting the head teachers of the maintained nurseries were announcing closure of those sites due to receiving letters from staff expressing their concerns and stating they would not be attending their place of work.
Nationally at the same time the NEU held an online meeting with an attendance of 400,000 to get the same message across to its membership.
Those who participated in those actions can be proud of the role they played in getting the Government to act more swiftly to protect all of us.