A survey has shown that under half of school support staff have been given any Covid-19 Health and safety training. This worrying news comes as the majority of schools have pupils isolating due to problems accessing testing after showing possible Covid symptoms.
In the GMB poll of more than 2,600 teaching assistants, caretakers, admin and catering staff from across England, 51% answered no to the question ‘have you had training on Covid-19 health and safety measures and working practices including infection control and correct use of PPE?
The survey also shows more than 66% are anxious about the return to school, with more than 60% of those who responded. Saying they had physical symptoms of the stress, like stomach cramps and not being able to sleep.
One respondent said: “The measures put in place do nothing to ease my fears, having a vulnerable person in my family. I don’t feel comfortable eating at school, as we eat in the classroom and I don’t feel safe, so I am going all day without food. I am only sleeping 3-4 hours a night with stress, so I don’t know how long I can keep going. I feel the Government is treating school staff as collateral damage…… There is no chance of distancing. In two days I have had an attempt to bite me and been spat at.”
Another added: “It’s as though covid never happened and they are playing Russian roulette.”
Stuart Fegan National Officer said: “The experiences of our members show schools are being used as a political football and have been reopened before they are truly safe.
“Basic health and safety training around COVID-19 should be a minimum for all school staff, it’s a shocking that less than only half have been provided with it.
“It’s no wonder our members are anxious about the return to school. School staff love their jobs, provide excellent care for children and are doing everything that has been asked of them.
“But Government guidance is muddled, they don’t have enough PPE or training and the testing and tracking system is a complete mess – which is leaving our members exposed.”
More than four in five schools in England currently have children not in class because they cannot access a Covid-19 test, a survey suggests.
The majority (94%) of schools have pupils who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 this term – and more than three in four (78%) have had staff who had to self-isolate, according to a poll by the school leaders union’ NAHT.
Nearly nine in 10 (87%) have children not attending school because they are waiting for test results, while 82% of schools have pupils at home because they cannot access a test to rule out Covid-19.
The findings come after organisations representing heads and governors, including the NAHT, have implored Boris Johnson to “take charge” of tackling the testing delays to ensure schools remain open.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, has warned that children’s education is being “needlessly disrupted” by a testing system which is in “chaos”.
Mr Whiteman said: “Tests for Covid-19 need to be readily available for everyone so that pupils and staff who get negative results can get back into school quickly.
“But we are hearing the same thing repeatedly from our members across the country – chaos is being caused by the inability of staff and families to successfully get tested when they display symptoms.
“This means schools are struggling with staffing, having to send groups of students home to isolate or close classes, and ultimately that children’s education is being needlessly disrupted.
Mr Whiteman added: “It is in no way unpredictable or surprising that the demand for Covid-19 tests would spike when schools reopened more widely this term.
“And yet the system is in chaos.
“The Government has failed schools and children.
“It is unacceptable for this to happen when schools have put so much effort into getting their part of the plan right, and when pupils have had to endure so much uncertainty and disruption already.”