Coronavirus: Safety measures compromised in return to nurseries and schools


Safe class sizes are just one of the measures that have been ignored by ​some nursery and primary schools as they reopen to more children, according to a survey published by Unison today (Friday).

The union said that rushed Government reopening plans had led to schools failing to follow the guidelines on social distancing.

More than one in five ​support staff (22 per cent) surveyed by Unison said that their primary schools have operated in class sizes bigger than the 15 pupils per group, the maximum recommended to maintain social distancing.

This figure increased to almost half - 48 per cent of employees in maintained nursery schools and nursery classes within schools – who said that their ‘bubbles’ contained more than the eight maximum children recommended in the Government guidance.

The data was compiled from the responses of more than 8,000 employees, ​of which seven in 10 (71 per cent) are teaching and learning support assistants working in primary, nursery and special schools in England.

The survey results also highlight failings in ensuring measures are in place to keep staff and pupils safe. Four fifths – 80 per cent - of respondents said their school or nursery has not provided any detail on how the Government’s ‘test, trace and isolate’ system will work in their area.

A third – 33 per cent - said that their school or nursery is not allowing staff to use personal protective equipment (PPE) if they wish to. Almost a quarter of them – 23 per cent - said that they were not given it even after a risk assessment ​said was needed.

Louise (not her real name), a learning support assistant who is a single mother without childcare said, ‘Cover teachers are coming in to work with several classes, compromising the bubbles. I’m scared to bring the virus home to my children. I’ve offered to work in the mornings when learning takes place but the head says I’ll lose pay and my job. She says it’s imperative I return to work although I’ve no childcare.’

Comments submitted to UNISON from staff who took part in the survey include:

  • ‘I’ve been allowed to work from home after the doctor signed me off sick for anxiety. Then I was told it was highly likely I’d be needed from 1 June. I’ve been going to work half days leaving my child at home alone.’
  • ‘It’s been a very scary time as we have had no PPE, no guidance as to what guidelines we should be following and no risk assessment.’
  • ‘There are no structured lesson plans, no alcohol sanitiser, no PPE. One bottle of cleaning product and one cloth is shared between four classrooms.’
  • ‘I’m more anxious about the situation now than before. The risk assessment wasn’t given to staff, but the school wants no liability. They say take it up with ​the Government.’

Commenting on the findings, Unison head of education Jon Richards, said, ‘This survey shows the pressures schools have been under to meet the June deadline. The result is some corners have been cut, with staff ​either not consulted in time​, or not at all​ in some cases.  

‘The focus has been on supporting pupils already in school, those still at home and the most vulnerable children. Now ​unions, staff and ministers must work together to get many more pupils back in September. Children and staff ​must be brought back safely​, and parents allowed to get back to work.​’

Click here to access the full survey data.

 



 

 

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