In light of the new COVID-19 variant, GMB think the Department for Education updated guidance for schools does not go far enough and once again is inadequate for keeping pupils and staff safe in schools.
In updated guidance issued on Monday the changes made were in relation to face coverings and contact tracing in so much as:
In primary schools, face coverings should be worn by staff and adults (including visitors) when moving around in corridors and communal areas.
In secondary schools, face coverings should be worn by pupils, staff and adult visitors when moving around the premises outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas. Pupils should also continue to wear face coverings on public and school transport.
All individuals who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, irrespective of vaccination status and age, will be contacted directly and required to self-isolate immediately and asked to book a PCR test. They will be informed by the local health protection team or NHS Test and Trace if they fall into this category and provided details about self-isolation.
GMB think schools should encourage all pupils and staff to wear face coverings in secondary school at all times including in classrooms – this is in line with rules in Scotland and Wales.
Your school has the freedom to do this locally.
GMB are concerned that it is only suspected or confirmed Omicron variant cases that will be required to isolate as we do not know how they can differentiate and have asked that all contacts are required to isolate until it is determined that the contact was definitely not Omicron.
If not done already ask your school to revisit, review and update their risk assessment to take the latest information into account and make them as robust as they were at the beginning of all pupil return in March 2021. Ensure they cover:
- Face covering requirements,
- Large gatherings such as staff meetings, parent evenings, assemblies etc. we recommend these do not take place for the time being.
- Social distancing in communal areas for staff and pupils
- Testing (taking of & result reporting/recording of)
- Ventilation is essential to tackling the spread of Covid so rooms need ventilating at all times or at regular intervals also air filtration devices should be used as needed.
- Regular hand washing and high level cleaning of communal areas.
GMB will be calling on the Government to urgently introduce additional mitigations in all schools to protect staff and pupils and keep them in school. More details will be issued soon.
Posted: 8th December 2021