TOWER HAMLETS UPDATE: 28TH JUNE 2021

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NEU DISTRICT MEETING

Monday 5th July 2021

5:30pm via Zoom

featuring Q&A with Cllr Asma Begum (lead member for education)

register here

Our final meeting of the year will feature an update on our workload campaign and a Q&A with Asma Begum who has just taken over as lead councillor for education in Tower Hamlets.

Please try to attend so we can end the year on a positive note.

COVID SAFETY

Covid cases are rising again in Tower Hamlets and we are aware that a number of classes and bubbles have been sent home to isolate. It is important that we maintain all the safety measures in schools and do everything we can to minimise the risk of infection. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to get in touch.

WORKLOAD CAMPAIGN • RESOURCES AND QUICK SURVEY

A reminder that you can find resources on workload and Directed Time here – please have a look and use them as the basis for discussion in your school.

Also, please spare a few minutes to complete our short survey letting us know what is happening in your school.


EXTRA BANK HOLIDAY IN 2022

We have received confirmation that schools will be required to open one day less for children next year – this is to allow for the extra bank holiday to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

This means that schools should be open 189 days plus 5 INSET days, making a total of 194 days.

The extra bank holiday falls in the May half-term so schools will be allowed to decide when to take the extra day.

Please make sure your head is aware of this and that the school calendar reflects this change.

TOWER HAMLETS & THE CITY NEU UPDATE: 21st June 2021

For our next District meeting on July 5th we have invited Cllr Asma Begum, who has recently taken over as the LBTH lead member for education services, to talk about her priorities and answer your questions.
In a recent meeting with local officers Asma said she is keen to work with Unions, particularly on equalities issues so it should be a good discussion.

NATIONAL REPS CALL • WEDNESDAY 23rd JUNE
Register here for the call on Wednesday at 5:00pm

WORKLOAD WORKING PARTY

Our workload working party met last week. We are going to conduct an NEU stress survey in a few individual schools and use these as the basis for discussion with headteachers about reducing workload and improving well-being.

If you would like your school to be involved, please let me know.

TWO DEMONSTRATIONS ON SATURDAY

The NEU is supporting two demonstrations in London on Saturday June 26th.

The first has been called by the People’s Assembly against the government’s handling of Covid – assemble outside the BBC (Portland Place from 12 noon).

The second is for Trans Pride – assemble at Marble Arch from 1:30pm

We advise anyone attending demonstrations under the current restrictions to take precautions to maximise your safety and that of others.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any information, advice or support.

21st June 2021

Remember Grenfell

Monday 14th June is the 4th anniversary of the Grenfell fire atrocity. 

To mark it, churches around London will ring their bells 72 times at 6pm. 

Local activists are organising a commemoration and have asked Tower Hamlets and the City NEU to publicise this local event:

St John’s in Bethnal Green (right next to the tube station) will be taking part, with the support of Reverend Alan Green (cc’d).  We want as many local people as possible to get involved, to mark the day.


While remembering those who died and their families, we also want to highlight the underlying causes of the Grenfell fire, which are still with us.  We had a recent reminder of this in Tower Hamlets at New Providence Wharf and there are still hundreds of blocks, as well as schools and other public buildings, where people’s lives are at risk because of inadequate safety and the profit-driven culture of the development industry.  


So, as well as paying our respects, we want to reaffirm our commitment to justice for the Grenfell dead and survivors and to demand that all flammable cladding material is removed, as the government said it would be.  Beyond this, we need to refocus attention on the fundamental right to a good, truly affordable and safe home for all, particularly now, when the lifting of the COVID eviction ban means thousands are threatened with homelessness.  


Please come to St John’s from 5.30pm on Monday 14th June.  We will mark the ringing of the bells in silence and then discuss what we can do to stop another Grenfell.”


I’m contacting tenant groups, anti-racism campaigners and other friends.  Let me know if you’d like to know more or have ideas for other things we could do and of course, invite others who you think will be interested.  If you can help to organise this, please get in touch.

Conflict in the Middle East: issues for schools

The NEU has updated its advice, Conflict in the Middle East: Issues for Schools, which aims to support members to deal with the reactions of pupils and the wider community to the conflict.

While some of the challenges staff face may require short-term measures to be taken following an escalation of violence in the Middle East, there are also longer-term issues around antiracism that can be addressed on an ongoing basis through the curriculum and by the promotion of a positive all-school environment and ethos.

The advice covers some of the challenges staff and schools/colleges may face; the importance of adopting a whole-school/college approach; the role of staff; support for staff and pupils; the benefits of teaching media literacy; guidelines for teaching controversial issues; and schools and colleges’ legal duties. There is also a useful resources and support section.

Background

The NEU believes that education can and does change lives.

The long-standing and many-sided conflict between Israel and Palestine generates a wide variety of deeply-held opinions. People supporting both sides of the conflict often hold strong and passionate views.

The life of a school or college is strongly influenced by outside factors and the conflict can pose difficult challenges for staff. Staff may find that they must deal with the sensitive task of responding to pupils’ reactions to violent events, particularly when there is a flare up in the conflict as in spring 2021. The NEU is confident that its members are skilled professionals who can meet the challenge of educating young people who can develop a firm understanding of human rights and can contribute to a more peaceful future.

This advice aims to support members to do so.

It is important that any discussions within schoolsandcolleges–boththoseformallyarranged as part of classroom teaching and those that may take place informally betweenstudentsandbetweenstaff–areconducted respectfully and calmly.

The advice contained in this document is relevant to all schools and colleges, though some of its content may be more appropriate to some sectors than others. While some of the challenges staff face may require short-term measures to be taken following an escalation of violence in the Middle East, there are also longer-term issues around antiracism that can be addressed on an ongoing basis through the curriculum and by the promotion of a positive all-school environment and ethos.

Download the resource here

Morpeth teacher tackles Covid

NEU Member’s Lessons to Boost Worldwide Vaccine Take-Up Go Global

A London science teacher whose pupils were worried about the safety of vaccines has developed a lesson plan to tackle misconceptions and vaccine hesitancy which has gone global.

NEU member Ed Stubbs, a science teacher at Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets, developed a series of lessons after hearing students talk about vaccine conspiracy theories.

His school serves the area of east London known as the “Covid triangle” which has seen some of the highest levels of coronavirus vaccine hesitancy in the country.

He worked with experts from Queen Mary University London on teaching resources which were picked up and developed by the Stephen Hawking Foundation and published on its website to form a new “vaccine initiative”.

Since Monday, more than 500 schools in countries including Brazil, China, Russia and the United States have downloaded the resources to help tackle vaccine hesitancy.”

Read the full article and download the resources.

NEU statementS: Violence against women

Statement by NEU Joint General Secretaries

Following the events at Clapham Common on Saturday 13th March, Joint General Secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney issued this statement on behalf of the NEU:

“The Metropolitan Police response to the vigil to mourn the murder of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, South London  has alarmed people across the political spectrum with the government’s own advisor on violence against women describing the handling of the vigil in Clapham as being ‘from the handbook of abusive men.’

“While it is right that large gatherings under COVID lockdown are subject to necessary safeguards to protect all, urgent questions must be asked about the appropriateness of the Metropolitan Police force actions and their lack of engagement with organisers to ensure the vigil was safely carried out, as the organisers wanted it to be.

“The scenes last night should not have been necessary. They were extremely disturbing, and the Metropolitan Police will need to account for their behaviour and the distress that it has heaped on the tragic murder of Sarah Everard.”

Statement by NEU Executive Members

Earlier in the week, this statement was issued by NEU Executive members:

The murder of Sarah Everard has highlighted the epidemic of violence against women in our society.
This must not be downplayed nor must just lip service be paid to need for action to address this continuing scandal.

There must be an end to calls for women to avoid going out at night on their own – how can it be right to effectively have a curfew for women?

We support the calls for safe, socially distanced vigils by Reclaim These Streets and others in response to the killing of Sarah.

As educators who have been told to return to schools in full this week alongside millions of children, we are outraged to be told that attending such vigils is unsafe and that the police are seeking to ban such events. We are right to protest and to demand action.

Violence against women must never be swept under the carpet – our voices must be heard.

We call on the police to allow the vigils to take place and call on NEU members to attend where they can.” 

NEU resources to tackle women’s oppression

The Union takes the issue of sexism, sexual harassment and violence against women and girls very seriously. See below for some of the resources that the NEU has developed to support members tackling these issues.

It’s just everywhere – sexism in schools

Domestic Violence Workplace toolkit

Sexual harassment advice

Sex Discrimination advice

Maternity & Pregnancy

The gender pay gap

Please contact us for more advice and guidance

NEU Coronavirus update 12th January 2021

NEU DISTRICT MEETING

Monday 25th January

5:30pm via Zoom

Register here

From the reports we have received so far, including our meeting on Friday, it seems that schools in Tower Hamlets are generally taking a cautious approach and are not overwhelmed with large numbers of children – we hope this situation will continue.

We will get a more detailed briefing to you in due course but here is a summary of some our key principles – all in line with government advice

  • risk assessments should be reviewed and updated
  • children should attend school only if absolutely necessary
  • group sizes should be kept small – we suggest 10-12 as a maximum (smaller for special schools)
  • children should not mix between bubbles
  • movement around the school site should be kept to a minimum
  • staffing should be kept to the minimum required to meet the needs of children
  • where staff can work from home they should do so
  • on no account should all staff be expected to attend work

The NEU is pressing the government to change its policy that nurseries, nursery classes and special schools to open for all children – in the meantime we are working with colleagues to make sure numbers in these settings are kept as low as possible.

REMEMBER: every measure that is put in place must be with the aim of reducing movement and close contact and, therefore, reducing the risk of transmission of the virus.

LONDON TEACHMEET • 17th JANUARY 4PM

We are looking at ways in which we can support members in sharing ideas and resources for distance learning during lockdown.

As part of this we are working with colleagues in other parts of London and have organised a TeachMeet on Sunday 17th January at 4:00pm.

This will be a quick fire, “here is something I did“, “have you tried this?” format, which I think could be quite exciting – if you have something you would like to share do let me know.

Colleagues can register here.

OUR NEXT MEETING

Our next scheduled District meeting is on Monday 25th January at 5:30pm.

We have sent all NEU reps a booklet containing motions that have been submitted to NEU Conference. Tower Hamlets and the City NEU can prioritise six for debate. We will vote on this at our next meeting. If you would like a copy of the booklet, please email AlexKenny59@gmail.com.

If the situation faces schools changes we can organise a meeting for Reps if necessary – in the meantime please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any advice, information or support.

12th January 2021

Blended & Remote Learning Guidance January 2021

This post is taken from the email sent by Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney to members on 7th January 2021.

It includes links to:

  1. guidance on blended learning, remote teaching and issues around live-streaming lessons
  2. overarching principles for blended and remote learning
  3. useful resources and fuller information for primary, secondary and special education professionals.
  4. examples of blended and remote learning approaches from members, as well as articles designed to inspire and aid your practice.

Read on for the full message:

Following the Government’s lockdown announcement, we know most of you will be engaged in providing remote and/or in-school learning for pupils.

For many of you, this will be nothing new – online learning, to a larger or smaller extent, has been a new feature of this pandemic.

With schools being closed to the majority of children, remote learning will be a reality, for the next six weeks at least.

The National Education Union (NEU) supports teachers in their professional role of delivering education to pupils in all circumstances.

We have developed our guidance on remote learning from last spring, adapted with the changes that have come over the last nine months.

Our updated guidance on blended learning, remote teaching and issues around live-streaming lessons can be found here.

Here, you will find our overarching principles for blended and remote learning as well as links to useful resources and fuller information for primary, secondary and special education professionals.

There are examples of blended and remote learning approaches from members, as well as articles designed to inspire and aid your practice. We will add to these resources and continue to develop our guidance as the situation evolves.

You all continue to play such an important role in our society, and your union really appreciates you and will do everything we can to support your efforts.

7th January 2021

Coronavirus update 6th January 2021

The Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday totally vindicated the NEU. After days of denying it, the government finally admitted that we were right and that schools needed to move to remote learning in order to reduce levels of infection of the new virus.

The current level of infection in Tower Hamlets is 1,188 per 100,000 of the local population, the highest it has ever been.

The situation in schools is rapidly changing. Right now, the focus must be on having a risk assessment in place that minimises the number of staff on the premises, and which keeps us as safe as possible.

It is worth stressing that the new measures have been put in place because infection levels from the virus are too high and need to be brought under control as quickly as possible.

1.  REVIEW YOUR RISK ASSESSMENT

The new strain of the virus means that extra caution will need to be taken to minimise the risk in schools. Risk Assessments should be thoroughly reviewed, in consultation with Reps, with a view to reducing the amount of movement around the building, contact between staff and, where possible, reducing bubble sizes or making them more secure.

2. STAFFING IN SCHOOLS

Under the new restrictions government advice is to avoid travel where possible and that anyone who can work at home should do so.

The NEU thinks that decisions about staffing levels should flow from that and staffing should be kept to a minimum to meet the needs of those children who will be in school.

  • This may mean establishing rotas in agreement with staff;
  • Group sizes for those children in school should be kept to reasonable size;
  • Staff meetings and INSET should be conducted remotely;
  • For each role and activity we should ask the question, “is this something that requires presence on site or can it be done from home?”

3. STAFF IN HIGHER RISK GROUPS
Staff who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) have been advised to work from home, and should have received a government letter to this effect. The NEU believes that the same should apply to Clinically Vulnerable (CV) staff and pregnant women who are in their third trimester.


4. SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Whether working in school or at home, we must be doing the best we can to support children and families in these very challenging circumstances – through online learning, calling home etc – this will be increasingly important to counter the suggestions in some circles that we are abandoning children and families.

Arrangements for remote learning should be discussed with staff, expectations should be reasonable and we will be issuing further advice and guidance. The NEU is also looking at ways in which the Union can support members in sharing ideas and resources.


There will be many questions in the coming weeks and we will be working hard to make sure we are giving the best support we can to members in schools – please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any advice, information or support.

Coronavirus Update 5th January 2021

Last night, nearly 300 members attended the zoom meeting held by Tower Hamlets & the City NEU. It was was also attended by Rushanara Ali MP who offered her thanks and support to education staff working in the borough and responded to some questions and concerns. We will continue to work closely with both Rushanara and Apsana Begum MP and the local council to ensure that the needs of our members and the communities we serve are met.

Since that meeting, the Government has announced a national lockdown to include the closure of all schools and colleges and a move to remote learning. Early Years Providers, Nursery and special schools are expected to remain open. We will be discussing the situation with members in these settings in the next few days.

There will be many questions and issues arising from this decision which we will address in the coming days. This is a changing situation and we will update advice accordingly and in response to feedback from members.

In the meantime, here are some links to previous advice that members may find useful:

Blended Learning Guidance

Making calls home

Vulnerable & At Risk Members

Domestic Abuse Toolkit

Women, work and childchare

Coronavirus, pregnancy and maternity

Running a zoom meeting

Health & Safety – a brief guide for reps

All our Coronavirus guidance and briefings are available here

Please keep checking the website for updates.

5th January 2021