Boris Johnson is facing calls to provide extra funding for school cleaning after a new survey suggested heads were struggling to make premises Covid-secure for pupils ahead of reopening in September.
Labour, the Greens and trade union Unison all urged education secretary Gavin Williamson to foot the bill for increased cleaning – of toilets, classrooms and toys in nurseries – or force schools in England to cut other services instead.
New government guidance issued this summer states that more rigorous and regular cleansing of classrooms, washrooms and items touched regularly, such as chairs, should be undertaken to limit the infection risk from coronavirus.
All pupils are expected to return in September for the first time since March, but schools minister Nick Gibb has now told MPs that heads and councils “should use their existing resources” when planning to welcome all children back for the autumn.
A newly released survey by Unison, shared exclusively with HuffPost UK, found that nearly three in 10 (29%) staff said there had been no increase in cleaning services since schools went back at the start of June.
Four in five (81%) of those questioned said non-cleaning staff at their school - often teachers and teaching assistants – were being asked to clean classrooms and items such as chairs and books.
Based on responses from more than 8,000 employees working in primary, nursery and special schools in England, it also found that nearly two thirds (65%) of workers reported that regular cleaning staff were expected to carry out ‘deep cleans’ rather than hand it to specialists.
A fifth (20%) who took part in the survey said cleaners at their school had no access to the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Many English schools have not hired more cleaners despite the extra demands created by Covid-19, Unison found. Other employees such as teaching assistants are having to help clean toilets and sanitise toys, according to the survey. Read more