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Commenting on a new report published by the Resolution Foundation that a third of workers fear catching Covid in the workplace and that a stronger enforcement regime is needed to ensure workplaces are as safe as possible, Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“The Government’s plans to extend national restrictions to tackle the Coronavirus will be seriously undermined if it fails to ensure that schools and other workplaces are Covid-safe.

“The Government must do whatever it takes to ensure that school and college employers act swiftly and urgently to ensure that workplaces are safe for staff and students.

“It is reckless for the Government to assume that the publication of national guidance is sufficient to ensure that schools and colleges remain safe whilst the rates of Coronavirus transmission in the wider community continue to escalate rapidly.

“Whilst the Government has belatedly increased funding for the Health and Safety Executive, stronger inspection and enforcement is also needed to ensure that all schools and colleges are as safe as possible.

“There is widespread evidence of rising Covid-19 transmissions within schools and colleges which need to be tackled as part of a credible national plan from the Government to ensure the safety of staff and pupils.

“The publication of advice by the Government has not been sufficient to prevent the spread of the virus in primary, secondary and special schools or in colleges.

“The NASUWT echoes the concerns of the Resolution Foundation that across the board, health and safety inspections have been cut, inspections have been slow, and Covid-related enforcement notices are few and far between.

“Fewer than one in five education settings have been contacted by telephone by the HSE and fewer than 300 of 23,000 schools have been visited by the HSE since the start of September. This is simply not good enough and will do little to inspire public confidence or to give reassurance to those who are working in schools at this critically important time.

“If Ministers are to secure the trust of parents and staff throughout the autumn and winter, they must come forward urgently in the coming days with a robust and comprehensive plan to ensure that all schools and colleges are safe whilst they remain open to all children and young people.

“The Government must also insist that tough action is taken against those school and college employers that breach health and safety requirements or guidelines.

“The NASUWT will not hesitate to take appropriate action in order to protect members whose safety is put at risk as a result of the failure of employers or the Government to ensure safe working conditions in schools and colleges.”

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