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Teaching assistants ‘feel unsafe’ in schools survey finds

GMB London organised the survey to get the views and experiences of school support staff to enable us collate data on their issues and concerns in relation to returning to work for the Autumn term.

GMB, the union for school support staff has today revealed the results of a survey which closed on Friday 18th Sept of nearly 700 GMB London Region members working as school support staff, the survey finds:

60% of school support staff don’t feel safe at work. 60% said the adults in their schools were not socially distancing. 1 in 5 reports a failure to carry out enhanced covid19 cleaning regimes

DfE Guidance asserted that ‘staff in educational settings tend not to be at any greater risk based on ONS analysis’ but this assertion was based on data analysis covering the period 9th March – 25th May when schools were only partially open, with significantly reduced staff and pupil numbers.

DfE also claimed that ‘schools are not currently considered high-risk settings when compared to other workplace environments’. GMB London was always concerned that these assertions, based on data from when schools were not fully open were misleading and would mean the real risk would not be fully appreciated, or assessed and unfortunately, from what our members are telling us and what has transpired in the last week or so would seem to support this fear.

Lisa Bangs GMB London Region Organiser said: “Our members can’t get a test despite the cases of Covid-19 in our schools rising. On top of this, there’s clearly a struggle to meet even the basic virus protections of social distancing. Our school support staff are rightly scared.

“The testing fiasco this week shows that there’s an absence of support for the staff educating our children. It appears everyone apart from this Government knew that when schools re-opened in September, we’d need more Covid19 tests.

“It is a total failure of a system that should guarantee a safe return to schools for all our Key Workers.

“There is a complete disconnect between what our members are facing day to day and what this Government is telling the public. It’s only right that our teaching assistants, caretakers and catering staff, deserve to go to work knowing they’re safe to do the vital role of supporting our children at school.”

One Teaching Assistant said: “I’m extremely annoyed and upset with this current situation, we have all returned to school in good faith despite all the unanswered questions and we are being let down by a government that is clueless, reactive and couldn’t care less”

Another GMB London member working in a school said: “The government has made sure that children go back to school this September without any form of plan to help them if situations like these occur. I am utterly disgusted and angry with the system when it comes to this issue.”