Most FE colleges in England started physical on-site opening on 17th August, colleges are due to open their doors to workers and students on Monday 7th September. The UK Government released SAGE backed advice on Saturday 5th September.
This advice was long in coming, unfortunately short in substance and four months late.
The new advice highlights:
· that FE creates connectivity between multiple organisations and could amplify local transmission;
· it is essential to develop clear strategies for testing, tracing and isolation;
· safe provision of education needs to be based on a hierarchy of risk
These are all policies that UCU has been advocating since lockdown.
Peter Evans, Chair of UCU London Region FE Sector Committee said that these were areas already identified by UCU back in June and it is outrageous that Johnson’s irresponsible Government has only now acknowledged this fact.
This advice was sneaked out on a quiet news day just two days before FE colleges are set to fling open their doors to many vulnerable people. This incompetent mismanagement of the pandemic in the context of FE could very well fuel a second wave.
For those working in FE with employers demanding that you return to on-site working, here is your secret weapon. Don’t forget you have the right to request to work flexibly.
Since 30 June 2014, the right to ask to work flexibly has been available to all workers in England who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service. There is no longer any need to be a carer for children or dependent adults to meet the criteria, to make flexible working requests which includes working from home whether partly or wholly, part-time work etc… There is an ACAS Code of Practice: Handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner (the ACAS Code). The Code is statutory, so employment tribunals will expect an employer to follow it.
If your employer is one of those who has not adopted a blended learning approach with classroom capacity determined by at least 1m + social distancing mitigation, they must be forced to do so. Call a branch meeting to discuss whether staff feel if your employer has done enough to secure a safe face to face teaching environment for students and staff.
If not make clear that you will be remaining teaching online until it is.