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Less than half of schools providing medical grade face masks to SNAs, survey finds

That’s according to a survey conducted by trade union Fórsa.

JUST UNDER HALF of schools have provided medical grade face masks to special needs assistants (SNA), according to a new survey.

The online survey of Fórsa’s SNA members found that just 49% of 2,100 respondent 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. 

The 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.

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.

“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,” Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said. 

SNAs cannot practice social distancing at work. They need this minimal standard of protection.

“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,” Pike said.

He said that Fórsa’s “next step” is to “send the list of non-compliant schools to the Department of Education. 

The survey collected data on the provision and use of PPE between Friday 4 September and Tuesday 8 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.

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