UNISON Northern Ireland


UNISON notes the publication today (13th August) by the Education Minister, Peter Weir MLA, of the New School Day guidance for the full re-opening of schools. Commenting on this guidance, UNISON Regional Organiser Marianne Buick said:

‘‘The Guidance published today raises more questions than answers. With the return of schools imminent, we continue to have serious concerns about the health and safety of pupils and our members. These concerns cannot be set aside to satisfy a political imperative to get all children back into school. We want to see schools reopened, but this must be done in a safe and responsible manner.

We are extremely disappointed by the lack of genuine consultation on such important guidance. Despite the draft guidance only being shared with UNISON at the eleventh hour, we made a detailed and constructive submission to the Department. This largely appears to have been ignored, suggesting a high-handed approach to the protection of education workers.

With the full re-opening of schools imminent, school principals are now left with limited time to make the major adjustments required to try and ensure the health and safety of our members.

This guidance leaves open significant questions for classroom assistants working with ‘bubbles’ of children, on the use of face coverings and in relation to cleaning and catering on which answers are urgently required.

Whilst the Education Authority also now has limited time to implement this new guidance, we are seriously concerned by its lack of preparedness in relation to school transport in particular. The full re-opening of schools means full school buses, with no social distancing. We are not satisfied that the necessary PPE, training and other

measures drivers and bus escorts need is in place. This is unacceptable and is causing our members significant alarm.’’