Union to send list of non-compliant schools to Department of Education & Skills
An online survey of Fórsa’s special needs assistant (SNA) members has revealed today (Wednesday) that only 49% of the 2,100 SNA respondents were able to confirm that their school had provided medical grade face masks, while 17% reported that they had been asked to re-use PPE equipment.
Fórsa trade union represents more than 11,000 SNAs nationwide. The survey response represents a return of more than 12% of the entire SNA workforce in schools.
The survey revealed:
- Asked if their school had provided medical grade face masks, a fifth of SNA respondents (21%) said the masks they were provided did not meet the industry standard EN14683
- Almost a third (29%) said they were unsure if the masks provided were up to standard
- Almost half (49%) said that the masks provided were the correct standard
- Asked if they had been told to re-use PPE (contrary to HSE guidelines), 17% of SNAs reported that they had been asked to reuse this equipment, while almost 10% of respondents said they had been told that their school had no more money for PPE, or that no more PPE would be available.
That any school is advising SNAs to re-use PPE is totally unacceptable.
Responding to the survey findings, the union’s head of education Andy Pike said: “These are truly shocking results which demonstrate a callous disregard for thousands of SNAS. Medical grade face masks are the basic level of personal protective equipment and are routinely provided to staff in all healthcare settings.
“SNAs cannot practice social distancing at work. They need this minimal standard of protection. A medical grade face mask costs only a few cents and such items are readily available for schools to purchase.
“If only half of SNAs are able to confirm they’re receiving appropriate equipment, we have to conclude that half our schools are insufficiently prepared to be operating, while at the same time putting students and staff at risk of infection.
“Many SNAs have underlying health conditions, and are now working with students without the proper protections. That any school is advising SNAs to re-use PPE is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Mr Pike said the union has collected details of more than a thousand schools that are not compliant with basic health and safety provision for SNAs and SEN students: “Our next step is to to send the list of non-compliant schools to the Department of Education and Skills. Fórsa reserves the right to publish the details of each school, and to pursue redress against them individually, if the department and ministers take no action to ensure SNAs are given the basic PPE necessary,” he said.
These are truly shocking results which demonstrate a callous disregard for thousands of SNAS.
The survey collected data on the provision and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) between Friday 4th September and Tuesday 8th September. The survey captured data from 1,296 primary schools, 496 secondary schools and 337 special schools and represents the most comprehensive research to date on the use of PPE across the schools sector.
When asked to list the different types of PPE provided SNAs reported that the following equipment had been provided:
Mr Pike added: “Schools have been given sufficient funding to bulk purchase PPE, face masks, aprons and gloves and this can be purchased very cheaply. A medical grade face mask should cost around 30c when purchased in large quantities. There is no justification, whatsoever, for schools to refuse to buy this equipment.
“This research shines a light on the contradiction between the warm words of policy makers and the cold reality on the ground, where many SNAs are not even given a basic face mask – costing just 30 cents – to keep themselves safe. Those responsible should be ashamed,” he said.