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12 January 2022

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Covid, stress and cutbacks fuel school staff shortages

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Sheila Caffrey, NEU national executive member (personal capacity)

Last year's government announcement of 'Covid-secure' schools, appeared to be based on the belief that the virus marched up to school gates and then slunk away again. Now it is running rampant and unchecked through many schools, causing unprecedented staff absence - a real issue for safety and workload.

Permanent and supply teaching staff, support, admin and site staff are all facing shortages, on top of an already existing teacher shortage and cuts to support staff. All aspects of school life are being hit: teaching in classes, site safety, lunches, play duties and support for pupils with Special Educational Needs.

The workload piled onto existing staff to cover for colleagues is increasing the burden on already snowed-under staff, leading to stress and burnout. What happens next? Further staff absences - but for longer. And growing statistics of education workers leaving their jobs because of the strain.

The Department for Education and the government were on to it straight away, releasing 'helpful' guidance during the Christmas break, suggesting classes be combined in halls with one teacher and 100s of students, and re-recruiting armies of retired teachers to cover! Both suggestions are so far from reality, it'd be laughable if it wasn't so serious.

100 students and one member of staff teaching not only means that pupils aren't properly taught, or those with additional needs are ignored, but the health and safety ramifications are clear. Little ventilation in an icy, draughty hall where humans are packed in like sardines will lead to germs and viruses being bounced around like a Mexican wave.

As for bringing back retired teachers... Many will have retired early due to the pressures and strain of the job - deciding it just wasn't worth the impact on their own health and families. Others, due to age or medical background, will be more susceptible to the virus and therefore at greater risk of harm or becoming ill.

Safety measures

Socialist Party members working in education have fought in our unions since the beginning of the pandemic to raise what is needed, and for the unions nationally to back up school union groups taking action over unsafe workplaces.

We have raised the need for: 'Nightingale' schools and classrooms to ensure adequate space and social distancing; CO2 monitors and ventilation units for every classroom, with union-agreed policies of when classes need to be moved; adequate heating and ventilation in every room; testing and isolation procedures to be followed; buffer periods after holidays and rotas that include staggered learning if transmission rates get too high.

And, of course, action to tackle stress and high workloads. We need smaller classes, less paperwork, less monitoring from school leaders and Ofsted or Estyn.

All of these things need to be fought for to win a safe and healthy education system that students and staff deserve.

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In The Socialist 12 January 2022:


News

Super-rich get richer, while we can't make ends meet. Join the fightback!

Blow to establishment as jury backs Colston Four

Covid, stress and cutbacks fuel school staff shortages

Tories concede under cladding pressure but don't go far enough

Low pay, stress and Covid drive: NHS staff crisis

Shameless Johnson partied through lockdown

Energy price crisis: nationalise energy giants to save us from £600 hit

Energy bosses: 'Jump, cuddle and eat porridge while we raise prices'


Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan: Working-class revolt only suppressed by massive mobilisation of troops

Solidarity with workers protesting in Kazakhstan


Campaigns news

Protests against BBC transphobia

Leeds People's Budget: We beat council cuts before, we will again

Communities fight back against Rio Tinto mine

North London NHS - "It's going to be us who saves it"

Southampton student vote for online exams must be accepted


Workplace news

Coventry bin workers' pay strike

10,000 tube workers vote to strike over jobs, terms and pension cuts

East Mids rail conductors force concessions, train managers' dispute continues

Carmarthenshire gritters take action as Plaid-led council reneges on agreement

Jobcentre Coronavirus outbreak leads to reps meeting call

South Yorkshire bus strikes spreading and getting stronger

Weetabix workers defeat 'fire and rehire' and ballot on improved pay offer

Invergordon Royal Mail mutiny wins


Reviews

Don't Look Up: An entertaining satire on corporate power and the US establishment

Anne: Hillsborough and the fight for justice

Money Heist: A Robin Hood tale set in modern-day capitalism


Readers' opinion

War criminal Tony Blair knighted

Bullying weighing room culture at the races

Free prescriptions? Maybe when you're older


Obituaries

Obituary - Pauline Wall

Obituary - Ethan Bradley 1993-2021


 

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Related links:

Education:

triangleUni staff and students must unite to end marketisation and for free education

triangleHigher education disputes

triangleEducation unions lead campaign against Leicester academisation

triangleStaff and students unite against university bosses' attacks

triangleSchool staff need a pay rise

Covid:

triangleLow pay, stress and Covid drive: NHS staff crisis

triangleSouthampton student vote for online exams must be accepted

triangleShameless Johnson partied through lockdown

triangleNHS Covid staff crisis

Stress:

triangleGCSE grading game stresses out students - even more than before!

triangleTeacher recruitment falls by a third - cut workload, not funding

triangleTory prescription for mental illness: stress and bureaucracy

School:

triangleOaks Park school strike ends following forced concessions

triangleWales: The Labour-Plaid Cymru agreement - jam tomorrow, maybe

Schools:

triangleUnion action needed for Covid safety

Article dated 12 January 2022

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Coventry bin workers on strike, January 2022, photo by Dave Nellist

Socialist Party members joined the picket lines of striking bin workers in Coventry fighting for better pay. January 2022

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