Please take our survey – violence in schools

school survey graphic

GMB is extremely worried about the rising level of violence and aggression in schools. We are seeking stronger action from head teachers, governors and Wiltshire Council, and it would be very helpful for GMB to have recent evidence of your experience in Wiltshire schools, whether schools run by the council, or Academies.

Please complete this survey, and encourage your work colleagues to complete it as well. The survey is open to all staff working in schools, whether you are a member of GMB or not.

There is already a policy in Wiltshire, but we believe that it needs strengthening, and that it is not being implemented. For that reason, we are also launching a survey across Wiltshire schools to get evidence of how serious the problem is across the county. If you work in a school in Wiltshire, please complete the survey, and encourage work colleagues to do the same. The survey is open to both GMB members and non-members.

The survey is here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Wilts-schools

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Swindon Borough Council policy on violence, aggression and anti-social behaviour in schools

This policy has been adopted by Swindon Borough Council, and has been distributed to Swindon’s schools. Read it here: swindon borough council violence policy

GMB will be approaching academies and we have already spoken to Wiltshire Council seeking to extend the policy to them. GMB believes that the Swindon policy is superior to the arrangements currently in place in Wiltshire.

Having a policy to protect staff is a useful step forward, but the challenge will be to ensure that it is implemented by school management. GMB will continue to take up issues of violence and anti-social behaviour towards school support staff from pupils and parents. Please contact GMB is you need support.

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Advice to GMB members at 24/7

GMB is the union for staff employed by the agency, 24/7 Recruitment, at the Marks and Spencer (M&S) distribution centre in Swindon. Several GMB members received a text message over the last two days, saying that they would not be required to work on the M&S contract until further notice.

GMB have spoken to 24/7 for an explanation. As you know, the agency provides staff to DHL, who run the distribution centre on behalf of M&S.

DHL informed 24/7, at very short notice, that agency staff were not required, and DHL advised that 24/7 needed to act immediately. This is due to very poor business performance by Marks and Spencer, both on food and clothes, which means that work volumes are very low.

As they had to act very quickly, 24/7 selected the staff at random. GMB understands that it is unfair that some of those selected have worked there for many years, while some newer staff are still working. However, under English law, employers cannot use length of service as a reason for choosing between people, as this could be regarded as discrimination.

GMB has every sympathy for the situation that you are in. Unfortunately, the reason for the reduction in workforce is the poor business performance of Marks and Spencer, which is a problem that GMB cannot solve; and 24/7 are behaving in the way that employment agencies normally do in the UK.

As you have an agency contract, 24/7 are offering to find you work at other contracts that they have in Swindon, particularly Iceland and B&Q, where 24/7 currently have vacancies. You would then be given priority to return to M&S when business improves. This is allowed by both the old contract and the new contract, where each of these different sites is known as an “assignment”. If you take work with 24/7 at Iceland or B&Q, then you will still be working for 24/7, and your length of service will continue uninterupted.

 

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Zero tolerance for violence, aggression or anti-social behaviour towards school staff

GMB, the trade union for school support staff, welcomes the introduction of a detailed policy for Swindon schools, which is designed to address the rising level of violence and abuse directed at school staff by pupils and parents.

Earlier this year GMB carried out a snapshot survey of school staff in Swindon that showed 42% of them had experienced violence from pupils during the preceding 18 months.

The snapshot survey also showed that in mainstream schools 25% had been spat at and 46% had suffered verbal abuse. In special schools for pupils who need additional support, 94% of staff had suffered violence. GMB initiated a survey of school support staff after a GMB member had their finger dislocated by an 8 year old pupil and felt the school’s response was inadequate.

Andy Newman, GMB branch secretary said:

“Following the survey, GMB were extremely concerned that 25% of staff reported they were afraid or apprehensive at work, but when they report incidents or concerns to schools management, half of our members reported that the response was inadequate. GMB felt that school leadership teams did not have sufficiently clear guidance on how to deal with violence and aggressive behaviour towards staff.

“We then held detailed discussions with Swindon Borough Council’s Health and Safety team, and we were surprised to discover that not only did Swindon borough council have no policy relating to violence against school staff, but we were unable to find any council in the country that had an adequate policy.

“GMB are delighted that Swindon Borough Council’s Health and safety team took the issue very seriously, and the new policy being rolled out to schools is a big step forward.

“The policy unambiguously states that violence, and aggressive and anti-social behaviour towards school staff is unacceptable, and sets out in detail the responsibilities of school governors, head teachers and other school managers, and of staff themselves, to manage and reduce risks.

“In line with health and safety best practice, not only should all incidents be reported, but for very serious incidents where there is a potential for a life changing injury, then “near misses” should also be reported. Schools should escalate serious incidents, and near misses, to the Swindon Borough Council health and safety team for support and advice.”

 

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Fighting for fair school funding

by Pete Baldrey, GMB member (pictured here with Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner)
 pete baldrey
On Tuesday 24th October, GMB members Sarah Church and myself, along with
concerned teachers and parents travelled to Westminster to lobby Swindon MPs on cuts to education. This was part of a national campaign.
I met with Conservative MP for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson. Justin stated that
funding was increasing for schools in North Swindon. However, in reality the evidence shows that schools are facing a squeeze due to previous cuts since 2010. This has created deficits in around a third of schools in England.
Schools are struggling. Cuts in staffing, resources and extra opportunities for
pupils are the norm. In addition, there is a nationwide recruitment and retention crisis within education. Teaching used to be the number one choice of graduates under Labour, but under the Conservatives this is not the case. The public sector pay cap has done nothing to attract people into schools.
Education needs more investment in terms of pay for all staff, to recruit more support staff like teaching assistants and to provide excellent before and after school activities for pupils of Swindon.
After all, the pupils of today are the future of the UK
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GMB demands Wiltshire head teacher is suspended

GMB, the trade union for school support staff, will be leafleting parents outside Christ the King School in Amesbury calling for the Headteacher, Mr Jerome McCormack to be suspended while serious allegations about an incident at the school are investigated.

The protest will take place at 2:45 pm on Tuesday 11th July at the following location:

Christ the King Roman Catholic Primary School
45 Earls Court Road
Amesbury
Salisbury SP4 7LX

Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser says: “A serious incident occurred at the school on 25th May.  It has been reported to the police, who are investigating.  On 5th June, GMB trade union advised Wiltshire County Council HR department of the incident and requested that the headteacher be suspended as a question of urgency, due to the serious nature of the allegations, and that because Mr McCormack is in a position of authority over the witnesses to the incident, then his continued presence at the school while the investigation took place would compromise the integrity of the investigation.

“On a previous occasion, GMB and teaching unions approached the school governors to discuss what was reported to us as the overbearing attitude of Mr McCormack towards staff, which gives us further concern that his continued presence at the school would compromise the willingness of witnesses to speak freely.  Furthermore, in GMB’s considerable experience of dealing with schools, we have never known a school to fail to suspend a member of staff facing allegations of similar seriousness.  It seems there is one rule for headteacher’s, and another rule for staff.  Under employment law, suspension is a neutral act, so the school governors would not have been pre-judging the investigation by suspending him.  Nevertheless, the perverse decision was taken by the chair of governors, Mary Hrekow, not to suspend Mr McCormack.

“Furthermore, as a trade union we asked for the risk assessment which should have been prepared prior to the activity during which the incident occurred, and we have not been provided with one, and the Chair of Governors has failed to answer our query to confirm that a risk assessment was even done.  No timely Health and Safety investigation was carried out either, and GMB has therefore reported the incident, and the failings of the response by the governors, to the Health and Safety Executive.

“GMB also believes that the School Governors and the Head teacher may have failed to properly discharge their duties under fire prevention regulations in connection with the incident.

“In all my years as a trade union officer, this is one of the most extraordinary and disturbing incidents that I have been involved with. It is our belief that there is a strong case that the school’s chair of governors has not acted as she could reasonably be expected to act in the interests of staff and pupil safety.

“We believe that the only way to restore confidence is for the head teacher to be suspended immediately, and a new investigation to be undertaken from scratch that is not compromised by participation of those governors and HR advisors who have seemingly prejudged the issue, and decided that it was not serious enough to warrant suspension

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PROTECTING EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS

by Sarah Church

Labour parliamentary candidate for South Swindon

The uncertainty of the outcome of Brexit negotiations impacts us all, across all sectors of work and all bands of pay. In a town like Swindon, there are two possible futures: a bright future of high employment, high wages and high productivity supported by employment rights and representation through trade unions; and a future under a Conservative government that reduces trade union representation, repeals the employment rights enshrined in EU law, and enters trade deals that allows unregulated third country access to our labour market.

Swindon’s geographical location, its proximity to major road networks and Heathrow airport, as well as the prospect of an electrified rail-link to London and Bristol make it a perfect town for business investment, business start-ups and manufacturing. Swindon already attracts a high rate of foreign investment. This is because of where we are but also because wages are so low: employees in Swindon are paid on average 18.3% less than in other nearby towns. In comparison with Bristol for example, an employer can expect to save approximately £4209 per employee per annum by employing a worker in Swindon. The combination of high productivity with low wages is an indicator of workforce exploitation. The solution to Swindon’s brighter future is for wages to rise to make us a high-wage high-productivity town.

What to do then? Firstly, introduce a minimum wage of £10 per hour that will actually meet the rising cost of living: rising rents, and rising food and fuel prices. Secondly, enshrine employment rights in British law, repeal the Trade Union Act and allow unions access to the workplace to support their members. Thirdly, ban zero-hours contracts and give all workers the same rights from day one of employment, whether on temporary or permanent contracts. Hard won rights for employees must not be eroded as we leave the EU, but should continue to protect the workforce from exploitation and wage suppression.

Cooperative business models will also increase employee rights and decision-making in local business. Employee representation on boards and the right to first refusal to buy a company that is being dissolved or sold will increase and improve rights in the workplace.

We are at the crossroads of these two possible futures and Labour is promising it will be bright for the workforce in Swindon.

Published and promoted by Wiltshire and Swindon GMB on behalf of Sarah Church, both of Suite 22 Cherry Orchard North, Swindon, SN2 8UH.

 

 

 

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