Local Officers, reps and members have been working flat out since the call was made by the NEU that staff should assert their contractual right not to attend an unsafe place of work. As well as school, District and Regional meetings, the NEU estimate as many as 400,000 people may have watched this morning’s National Union ‘Zoom’ call – either directly or through social media broadcasts.
Union activists have been so busy talking to members, answering queries and building the campaign that there has been little opportunity to step back and describe the work being carried out. These brief reports hopefully give you a flavour of what’s been happening right across the Union:
As Headteacher, I have received 50 Section 44 letters from teachers and support staff today. Some staff were already either shielding or self-isolating in any case. I have obviously responded by informing parents that the school will be closed tomorrow. It looks like a number of Southampton schools are closing. Support from the leader of the council has helped. * UPDATE ON MONDAY MORNING – 31 Southampton primary schools closed = about two-thirds of them!
Liz Filer, Southampton NEU
Lots of primaries will be closed in Bristol. My own school was up to 22 staff on a Section 44 letter when it was announced it will be closed to everyone tomorrow and then there will be remote learning for at least the rest of the week. I’ve also had 10 new names appear on my membership list, including several support staff who have never been unionised before.
Sheila Caffrey, Bristol NEU
Coventry saw over 300 members join an online meeting. We have recruited more reps and members have grown in confidence. A number of schools are fully closed and more are partially closed. This is a great start to the campaign. The response of the Local Authority has angered many members, being told that schools are safe whilst the data on Covid cases has increased by over 50% in a short period of time.
Jane Nellist, Coventry NEU
I have spoken to eight Multi Academy Trust CEOs. All bar one were very supportive of our stance. Over 100 members attended our District ‘Zoom’ meeting this afternoon. We also invited the UNISON convenor to attend and that helped to strengthen the resolve of our members. We’ve already gained 27 new members since the union came out fighting.
Mike Whale, Hull NEU
Responding to a growing anxiety about the return to school, I worked as part of the senior leadership team to review and tighten up our risk assessment. However, given the growing risks, all 3 of the SLT felt this would be insufficient to guarantee staff safety. After the national NEU rep’s briefing on Saturday, our school rep organised a members meeting. All 17 of our members (including 3 former NASUWT members) agreed to sign the S44 letter. We decided to contact and share the letter with all school staff. Within an hour we had 50 names on it! Staff were keen to sign, given confidence by the union taking a stand. Our HT, a NAHT member, fully respected the views of the staff and the school has moved to online learning as per NEU recommendations for the next 2 weeks at least. Even Tory-led Norfolk Council has now issued advice saying that “as a head teacher you may find it difficult to be certain that you will have sufficient staff to open safely on Monday”. At the latest count, I already know of over 50 local primary schools who will not be opening – and the list is being added to all the time!
From a NEU member in Norfolk