Just 1% of schools get Covid safety inspections

It is 'simply not good enough' that fewer than 300 schools have been checked by expert HSE visits, says NASUWT leader
3rd November 2020, 12:53pm

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Just 1% of schools get Covid safety inspections

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/just-1-schools-get-covid-safety-inspections
Coronavirus: Union Leader Says The Government Is Not Doing Enough To Ensure Schools Are Safe From Covid

A teaching union leader has said the government is not doing enough to ensure that schools are safe from Covid and revealed that health and safety visits had only taken place at 1 per cent of schools so far.

Dr Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT, also revealed that fewer than one in five schools have been contacted through the Health and Safety Executive's calls to schools.

He said that a national lockdown will be undermined if the government fails to ensure that schools are Covid-safe and said it would be reckless to assume that just issuing national guidance was sufficient.


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Dr Roach also warned that the union "will not hesitate to take appropriate action in order to protect members whose safety is put at risk".

Coronavirus: Fears about safety in schools

The union leader said: "Fewer than one in five education settings have been contacted by telephone by the HSE and fewer than 300 of 23,000 schools have been visited by the HSE since the start of September.

"This is simply not good enough and will do little to inspire public confidence or to give reassurance to those who are working in schools at this critically important time."

The figures were disclosed in an exchange of letters between Dr Roach and the HSE, which, as Tes revealed earlier this year, is carrying out checks on schools following the country's return to full-time education in September.

Dr Roach said: "It is reckless for the government to assume that the publication of national guidance is sufficient to ensure that schools and colleges remain safe whilst the rates of coronavirus transmission in the wider community continue to escalate rapidly.

"While the government has belatedly increased funding for the Health and Safety Executive, stronger inspection and enforcement is also needed to ensure that all schools and colleges are as safe as possible."

"There is widespread evidence of rising Covid-19 transmissions within schools and colleges which need to be tackled as part of a credible national plan from the government to ensure the safety of staff and pupils.

"The publication of advice by the government has not been sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus in primary, secondary and special schools or in colleges."

"If ministers are to secure the trust of parents and staff throughout the autumn and winter, they must come forward urgently in the coming days with a robust and comprehensive plan to ensure that all schools and colleges are safe whilst they remain open to all children and young people.

"The government must also insist that tough action is taken against those school and college employers that breach health and safety requirements or guidelines."

 

A DfE spokesperson said: "Schools are following our guidance and have carried out their own risk assessments to put in a range of protective measures, endorsed by Public Health England, to reduce the risk of transmission.

"Where staff have any concerns about the measures in place, they should first talk to their employer, or raise the concern with HSE if required."

In a letter to Dr Roach, the HSE's chief executive, Sarah Albon, said the organisation has contacted around 5,000 education settings by phone and was currently visiting schools in England and Wales.

The letter, dated 27 October, said that it had carried out more than 200 school visits to date and that most visits have not identified the need for any formal intervention, and areas of concern have been dealt with by verbal advice.

The letter added: "We have, however, written formally to a small number of schools to confirm our findings and require improvements to be made to their control measures.

"As we have not completed the programme of work, we are not yet able to be able fully evaluate the findings of these visits. However, our intention is to share the findings from the current programme in England and Wales in the same manner as in Scotland and at our next scheduled meeting with schools' unions representatives."

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