The introduction of face coverings in schools have made school support staff feel safer. Taking them away when infection rates are still high and rising in some areas would be a mistake, warns UNISON today (Thursday).
Seven in ten (71%) teaching, learning and special needs assistants, administrators, lunchtime supervisors and facility staff in England believe face coverings in secondary schools are an important safety measure. More than six in ten (63%) say face coverings make them feel safer at work, according to a recent UNISON survey.
These findings are being sent to the government to inform its review of face coverings as a safety measure in schools and highlight the risk of removing them, particularly from classrooms.
The survey also found that 75% of secondary school staff say their school has introduced face coverings for staff in class. An even higher number (84%) said pupils were wearing them in classrooms.
UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Face coverings in schools have only been in place for a few weeks. Lifting this measure before the impact on transmission in schools has had time to be assessed would be rash. It could undermine the morale of staff, who see face coverings as an important protection at work.
“Efforts to keep pupils and staff safe will be in vain if safety measures are lifted too soon. Instead, prevention measures should be strengthened to avoid the need for closures, especially of primary schools.
“Removing the need for masks in schools could see a spike in cases. This is the last thing the country needs. It would be unfair on the staff taking risks every day, unfair on the children who’ve already missed out on months of education and unfair on the communities they serve.”
Notes to editors
– The UNISON survey opened on Monday 22 and closed on Wednesday 24 March – 7,363 school staff took part. They include teaching, classroom and learning and special needs assistants, administrators, lunchtime supervisors, facilities and security staff. These professionals are based in primary schools (56%), secondary schools (29%), special schools (8%) and nurseries (6%).
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, private and community sectors.