Our joint union safety checklist- it is not safe to return on 1 June

The NEU wants wider school reopening to begin as soon as it is safe to do so.  But we are clear that it is not safe to do that now.  The safety of our members and our students, and that of society more widely, must be the priority.

We have published a joint union (NEU-GMB-UNISON-UNITE) checklist and associated guidance below which reps can use, in discussion with your colleagues at school, to decide when it is safe for your school to reopen.  

Wider opening should only happen when the national tests are met and there is full compliance with the joint union checklist in the school. Our checklist incorporates DfE requirements and NEU health and safety requirements.

This is not a checklist to plan for wider opening on 1 June or any other predetermined date. The Checklist follows the format of the DfE Toolkit on planning for reopening, which most head teachers are likely to use in their own planning. The starting point for every component of the Checklist is that it is checked NO until reps and members determine that it can be checked YES.

We have outlined the steps we have asked reps in your area to take via email to you and also published these and all documentation to help with this on our coronavirus reps webpage.

We are asking you as a district or branch officer to:

  1. Arrange a virtual meeting of all your reps using our digital guidance  to discuss the checklist and approach you will take together in your area.
  2. Download and send our model email to your local authority explaining the NEU’s national position and checklist.
  3. If there are difficulties in your district or branch with specific schools, support your reps to use our escalation guidance below.

Letter we have sent every local authority and large multi academy trust

We have written to every local authority and large multi academy trust to outline our checklist process and the important role our branch and district officers play. You can use this letter in discussion with your local authority.

Our checklists

Even if a school achieves full compliance with the Checklist, wider opening can only be deemed safe when the Government and Public Health England have sanctioned wider opening; and the NEU agrees that it is safe to do so, both nationally and locally.

Escalation guidance: what if a leadership team won’t engage or members disagree over safe reopening? 

If ahead will not engage in meaningful discussions with our reps and members or if the discussions fail to reach agreement, especially if there is a clear intention to proceed to wider opening before full compliance with the joint union checklist has been achieved, there are a number of escalation steps we are asking reps and members to take:

  1. Go back to members:

If agreement cannot be reached, it is important reps speak to and update members on the key areas of disagreement. We believe that failure to agree the checklist will mean that it is unsafe for staff, students and ultimately the wider community for the school to open more widely. We will provide model letters which outline the consequences of failing to secure full compliance with the checklist; which can be adapted to suit local circumstances and request that members add their names to the letter before reps send to the Head or Principal. This will reinforce both how serious the outstanding issues are but also that NEU members are united – never underestimate the power your collective voice has.

  1. Speak to other reps in your area:

This is where, as a branch and district officer, you will be vital in helping reps communicate together and continue a discussion around reaching an agreement on the checklist. Reps being able to tell their head that a large number of nearby schools are agreeing to the checklist could be powerful in moving management’s position.

Making sure you as an officer have a local reps WhatsApp group is crucial and your helping you keep a full list of all schools that have secured full compliance with the checklist, building a critical mass of safe workplaces, and a list of those not yet in full compliance with the checklist and therefore not yet deemed to be safe to open more widely by the union.

  1. Escalate to your Branch/District Secretary:

If none of the above has enabled reps to reach a position of agreement, we are suggesting that they contact you as Branch or District Secretary. Your can discuss issues of concern with reps and members, approach the head and register, if appropriate, the school’s failure to comply with the Checklist with the Local Authority or MAT, dependant on the type of school.

We would hope at this stage that the combined pressure from you, reps and members will resolve the outstanding issues. If they do not, you will need to escalate further to the Regional/Wales Office and discuss next steps with you; these may include:

  • Issue a press release and use your local contacts to create a local story. Use social media, particularly in cases where rogue heads are demanding unsafe and dangerous processes and procedures 
  • Consider a political response. How many local councillors have signed the NEU letter? Is it worthwhile contacting your local MP for support?
  • Consider a community response. Are there established community or parental groups that would support the NEU position? Is it possible to hold an online community meeting?
  • Escalate to Regional Office

However, if the school or college remains non-compliant with the Checklist and wider opening is imminent then we are asking members and reps to seek immediate advice from you and/or Regional Office who will provide model letters to submit to the Head or Principal and to notify members of their legal rights not to attend or to leave work if they believe they are in serious and imminent danger.

How to hold a successful digital members or reps meeting

We have this short guide to help you deliver a digital meetings of reps and even members to discuss the checklist and ensure we represent members views collectively in discussion with your leadership teams.

Rep recruitment drive

Many members have already stepped up to become NEU reps and to become part of rep teams to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

If there is a member who wants to be a rep in your area, even supporting an existing rep, we are encouraging them to indicate they want to get involved using our form here.

Support for you

We are asking you as local branch and district officers to support reps and members during this time, if you require further assistance, please contact your regional office.

Officers Zoom meetings 

National Education Union Branches and districts Zoom call May 14

Recording of coronavirus update for Branch and District Officers, chaired by NEU President Amanda Martin on May 14 2020.

District & Branches during lockdown – constitutional advice

Advice and guidance on the running of district and branch meetings during lockdown, including AGMs and decisions relating to local subscription rates and honoraria, can be found on the NEU Officers’ Portal here.

Remember, schools/colleges remain open to vulnerable pupils and staff continue to provide distance learning to other pupils. See our extensive coronavirus advice.