UNISON Scotland has responded to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that early years and childcare services will start to expand from Monday 1 June.
UNISON has stressed that we need risk assessments, staff training and clear guidance on safe working practices. Trade unions must be involved in local planning to ensure agreement round safe opening of schools and early learning centres.
The branch has also demanded dicussions with management locally to ensure that protections are in place for our school support members and the children before schools can reopen. To date discussions have only been held with teaching unions.This has now been promised and we will keep members updated on these discussions.
Lorraine Thomson, chair of UNISON’s education issues group said: “Education staff can’t avoid close contact with children, especially young children. They change nappies, comfort children, give medicines, support children with disabilities, support children in the dining room and playground and classroom. The safety of all is vital and we need to all be properly prepared.
“Trade union involvement must be a reality on the ground. Staff have skills, they know their jobs and health and safety expertise. They must be included at the start of any local planning of expansion and reopening. Risk assessments and then action to mitigate risks need to be in place to ensure that children and staff are safe. This is no time for short cuts.”
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said on 28th May: “From Monday teachers and staff can return to schools to prepare for their reopening. From next Wednesday childcare will be available to more people, for example vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Childminding services and fully outdoor nursery provision can start to reopen next Wednesday too, with guidance for child minders being issued from Monday.”
UNISON has been talking to government and stressing the actions needed to ensure the safety of children, staff and the wider community, including
◦ Testing, tracing and isolation (TTI): needs to be in place to ensure children are not bring Covid-10 into schools
◦ Appropriate guidance round safety and infection control needs to be in place
◦ Guidance needs to implemented in settings
◦ Risk assessments need to be done for settings but also for some staff who have specific health concerns and for some pupils
◦ Training for staff re new ways of working re COVID-19
◦ Cleaning plans and supplies for COVID-19: who what when how often
◦ Appropriate PPE: what it is for settings and staff? PPE supplies need to then be available in appropriate quantities
◦ Decision need to be made about the safe capacity of individual settings.
◦ Space in school office? Should admin and clerical staff continue to work from home. What support and equipment will they need.
◦ Safe drop off and collection plans need to be organised
◦ School transport plans need to be in place
◦ Staff room space/cleaning needs to be reviewed
◦ Equipment sharing; what can be shared and how is it kept clean?
◦ Changes to staff/child ratios to meet COVID-19 new ways of working
◦ Utilising more outdoor space: a great deal of work is needed to put more outdoor space into safe use.