Support staff mustn’t be exploited by schools reopening, says UNISON

Jon Richards says beginning of June reopening is unrealistic as safety tests not met

Responding to new Department for Education (DFE) guidance on the reopening of primary schools and nurseries and to meetings held today (Friday) between unions, officials and government scientists on the risk of Coronavirus transmission by children, UNISON head of education Jon Richards said:

“Safety for staff and pupils has to be the number one priority. Yet the DFE guidance has a number of holes, and the government has neither met unions’ safety tests nor its own. That’s why the beginning of June for reopening is unrealistic.

“The guidance encourages schools to use support staff to fill gaps if teachers aren’t there. While more senior teaching assistants can do this, there’s a danger that others could be exploited.

“The meetings today (Friday) with scientists and officials were useful. But questions remain around the capacity for schools to be able to fully test, trace and isolate children and school staff.

“Many support staff come from backgrounds that put them at greater risk if they’re infected with Covid-19. Workers including teaching assistants, cleaners and school meals staff mustn’t be put in danger just because the government is in a hurry to get schools running again.”

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