The National Education Union has issued guidance to reps on how to escalate in schools where the joint union safety checklist is not being met, up to workers using their individual rights under health and safety law not to work where they see a serious and imminent danger.
This can be applied to win safety in schools even where there is no wider opening.
One London school used the escalation letter after 1 June, sending it at 10pm on Wednesday, signed by 20 of the 23 NEU members. Reps met the head at 8am Thursday. He apologised, said he would immediately address their concerns, and asked the union group to add to and amend the risk assessment.
This is a powerful model of how unions can pursue significant workers’ control of health and safety during the pandemic and beyond.
The NEU has reported that on 1 June, 44% of schools did not open more widely to any of the primary year groups suggested by the Prime Minister.
35% of schools opened on 1 June on the terms expected by Johnson. 21% of schools opened more widely, but on less than his terms. By 5 June, an additional 6% of schools will have opened more widely, but more than two-thirds of them to less than the prescribed set of year groups.
The regional variation in school openings tracks regional levels of the virus. Just 12% of schools in the North East and 8% in the North West — where levels of the virus are higher — opened fully to all eligible year groups. As of 9 June, the government has dropped its plan to reopen primary schools across England to all year groups before the end of this term.