The IWW TEFL Workers’ Union is here to support language school workers across the industry. We want to ensure that no school reopens without all the proper safety precautions in place.
The union has five criteria for safe school reopening which are available here:
If your school has not committed to all five criteria already, we suggest you first contact the union at tefl [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk then, along with all your workmates (and not just teachers!) submit a group letter to management outlining any concerns.
We have included a template letter below. This letter can and should be adapted to reflect the needs and concerns of your particular school.
As always, there is strength in numbers and in organisation. Do not hesitate to contact the union for support and advice.
Ref: Reopening of the school in the current public health situation
Dear [relevant manager],
This letter has been written by the teachers/staff of [employer]. In writing it, all staff/teachers have contributed to it or had the opportunity to contribute to it. It represents the agreed position of the teachers/staff of [employer].
We’re writing to seek clarity on [employer’s] health and safety measures before considering the school’s reopening. We would like assurances from [employer] that the conditions outlined below will be implemented to ensure the safety of all workers and, by extension, of the students in our care.
- Consultation with workers must be a priority.
Workers must be consulted both individually and collectively before our school is reopened. We must be provided with risk assessments and a detailed plan of how the school is going to mitigate any risk for teachers, the entire staff in general, and of course the students. Considering the ongoing situation, it is also expected that employees be provided with adequate PPE.
Any contractual change or change of teaching practice (such as online delivery of the curriculum) also require an honest and open negotiation with all staff to ensure that their concerns be taken into account. Staff members should also be allowed to bring with them a union representative in any individual or collective consultation meetings.
- Room by room risk assessments.
Every room in the school should have its own risk assessment to take into account the current challenge of the public health situation. It is expected that all risk assessments be shared with staff.
For each room, measures should be taken to ensure adequate social distancing and a realistic assessment of the safe number of pupils in each room is to be carried out even if that means working with lower student numbers than usual. Staff opinions on adequate social distancing within classrooms must be given paramount consideration.
- No one who is shielding or vulnerable should be obligated to return to work if they do not feel safe
It is expected that [employer] will accommodate the situation by possibly altering teaching practices (such as working from home) but this should be done in a genuine two-way consultation.
- Paid sick leave for staff
We are requesting that [employer] commit to providing paid sick leave for all staff from day one of suspected COVID symptoms. Statutory sick pay is inadequate. Without full pay, there’s a very real risk staff members may have to choose between coming to work when potentially ill and paying the bills. This is a choice no one should have to make.
- A commitment to avoid redundancies
All possible measures should be taken to avoid redundancies. This may be a difficult time for the industry, but it’s important that staff do not bear the brunt of the crisis. We are asking for confirmation from [employer] that redundancies are not currently on the horizon and that [employer] will take all measures to save jobs, including ensuring staff remain on the furlough scheme as long as it is active.
As the above matters are of particular urgency, we are requesting a response by [date]. We hope that [employer] shares our desire to ensure staff and student safety and a commitment to resolving any employee concerns through dialogue and good faith.