Academy chain failing to protect staff and pupils, say unions

UNISON and GMB make formal complaint about David Ross Education Trust to Health and Safety Executive

National academy chain the David Ross Education Trust has failed to consult staff properly on Covid-19 risk planning ahead of a wider reopening of its schools, say UNISON and GMB today (Tuesday).

The unions have made a formal complaint to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about the trust, which runs 34 schools in total across London, the East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside.

In their letter to the HSE, UNISON and GMB say the trust has put the safety of employees and pupils at ‘serious and imminent risk’. This is as result of the academy chain leaving insufficient time to consult with staff over the return or explain how they will be protected, on issues such as testing and tracing, say the unions.

UNISON and GMB are also concerned the trust failed to inform all its staff at Charnwood College in Loughborough that an employee had been infected with Covid-19. This was one of three known cases in its schools – the other incidents both occurred in Northampton, at Malcolm Arnold Academy and Briar Hill Primary.

The multi-academy chain – part of a group ​of school leaders advising the government on schools reopening – should have delayed plans to open its primary schools to more pupils this week, say the unions.

UNISON and GMB say the trust has failed to provide full details of its Covid-19 risk assessments and left insufficient time to train staff on how to manage the return of pupils.

The letter adds: “We are extremely concerned that the trust has opened its schools to an increasing number of pupils and staff during an epidemic without fully engaging staff and unions on the risk in each school and the measures needed to be taken to mitigate these risks.”

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “David Ross Education Trust has ploughed ahead with wider reopening which could put staff and pupils at risk.

“The trust needs to ensure every member of staff is told when a colleague gets the virus and senior managers must involve unions much more than they have done so far.”

GMB organiser Rachelle Wilkins said: “GMB warned DRET repeatedly about not having risk assessments in place, rushed consultations and ever-increasing reports the track and trace system will not be up and running until the end of June.

“Yet they’ve still rushed ahead with wider re-opening of their primaries which is very concerning.

“The trust now needs to keep staff and trade unions regularly updated and involved with any new cases of Covid-19. DRET also must keep them briefed about the steps they’re taking to keep our member and pupils protected and safe.”

Notes to editors:
– Click here for the full copy of the letter from UNISON and GMB to the HSE.

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