UNISON’s 5 tests for government before school pupil numbers increase

The decision to increase pupil numbers on 1 June is premature and could put lives in danger, says UNISON

UNISON is advising school support staff members not to engage with any planning for a return to school from 1 June.

Speaking about the government’s plans to substantially increase pupil numbers next month, UNISON South East Regional Secretary Steve Torrance said: “It’s abundantly clear that it simply isn’t safe for pupils and staff to return to school on 1 June.”

“UNISON wants a return to normal, but schools should only increase numbers when it is safe to do so for pupils, parents and staff.

“Any plan to reopen schools needs to address our key tests and government has to date failed to deliver on these vital safety measures.

“What’s being discussed right now is reckless and will potentially put the lives and welfare of pupils, staff and parents at risk.”

UNISON, along with other education unions, is calling for our key tests to be met before pupil numbers are increased.

Test 1: safety first!
It’s essential for a significant and sustained drop in the number of new Covid-19 cases to take place before any return can be contemplated. The safety and welfare of all pupils, staff and parents must be paramount.  Comprehensive planning and safety measures then need to be put in place to protect everyone in schools.

Test 2: test, track and trace
We need a full rollout of a national test and trace scheme, one which ensures schools don’t become new centres of virus transmission and outbreak.

Test 3: plan to protect the vulnerable
Staff who are shielding or who have members of their household that are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 must be confident their needs are being addressed in any plan to increase pupil numbers. Vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage need their specific needs carefully considered too.

Test 4: access to PPE now
Additional resources are needed for enhanced school cleaning, Public Health England guidance should be updated and supplies need to be guaranteed, so that PPE is available anytime social distancing isn’t possible. Dynamic risk assessments need to be put in place which consider all local circumstances.

Test 5: genuine local decision making
A robust and well managed system with local decision makers and clear lines of accountability needs to be established, with the power to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new Covid-19 cases.

UNISON members have gone above and beyond to keep schools open during lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. They have contributed massively to helping keep us all safe and well and all this positive work shouldn’t be undone by a premature decision to increase pupil numbers.

Are you a member of school support staff that’s worried about plans to increase pupil numbers? Not a member of a union yet?

Join UNISON today – the UK’s biggest union for school support staff. 

Already a member of UNISON and want to know more about how you can protect your colleagues at work?

Find out more about becoming a UNISON health and safety representative

Further Information

UNISON advice for school support staff

Joint union statement on increasing pupil numbers (8 May 2020)

UNISON survey – what are your views on the government’s plan to increase pupil numbers?