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Expert guidance on managing your school and staff to help you make informed and effective decisions. 


NAHT coronavirus survey findings

On 27 April 2020, NAHT invited all members to complete a survey regarding the issue of schools being asked to open to a larger number of pupils  

Within 36 hours 7,319 responses had been received and the data below is based on those responses.

A large number of respondents also added additional ‘free text’ comments and provided ‘other’ suggestions. These will be read and analysed by the policy team and used to inform discussions with the government.

Key findings

We asked respondents what they considered to be pre-requisites before schools could re-open. The top five answers were as follows:

  • A reasonable notice period (96%)
  • Clarity on the number or proportion of pupils allowed in school at any one time (94%)
  • Improved guidance on social distancing in schools (87%)
  • Clearer guidance on supporting staff and pupils who live in households with high-risk individuals (81%)
  • A clearer explanation of the scientific evidence underpinning the Government’s decision (in relation to both pupils and staff) (79%). 

We asked respondents what percentage of staff are currently available to attend school.

  • 48% said that 71% or more of staff were currently available to attend school
  • 74% said 51% or more of their staff were currently available to attend school
  • 25% said that less than 50% of their staff were currently available to attend school. 

We asked why some staff were currently unable to attend, four main reasons were cited:

  • Staff are in the at-risk category or living with someone in the at-risk (93%)
  • Staff are shielding or living with someone who is shielding (77%)
  • Staff have caring responsibilities due to Coronavirus (37%)
  • Staff have been displaying Coronavirus symptoms (33%). 

We asked when schools are asked to return whether this should be on a phased / staggered basis

83% of respondents supported this approach.

We asked respondents whether a phased approach should be based on specific year groups first or based on a wider range of year groups.

There was a relatively even split on this, with 40% favouring a wider year group approach and 34% favouring a specific year group approach.

However, very significant concerns were raised about the practicalities and logistics of such an approach. 

These included:

  • The challenges involved in using rotas to have different year groups in at different times.
  • Staffing implications eg having enough staff available to do this and to teach different year groups than they normally teach throughout the week.
  • The ability to deliver any form of curriculum with these staffing and logistical challenges.
  • Parental expectations around this i.e. schools not being able to offer days and times that match parents work demands.
  • Whether or not such an approach would help with getting people back to work because of the above issues.
  • Balancing this with the needs of existing vulnerable pupils in school and distance learning.
  • Fears about impact of staff becoming ill, needing to self-isolate at short notice and that putting real pressure on any rotas.

We asked respondents if a year group approach was taken, which year groups they would prioritise

Primary respondents: Year 6 (65%), Year 5 (43%), Year R (33%)

Secondary respondents: Year 10 (81%), Year 12 (52%)

We asked how much flexibility would be desirable if the government were to announce a re-opening of schools.

A clear majority (64%) were in favour of a ‘balanced approach’, described as ‘clear expectations from government on which approach to prioritise, but with some flexibility for schools to exercise discretion based on their specific contexts.

We asked “if government were to suggest schools open to more pupils on a phased / staggered basis, do you think it would be better to have a specific date or a window of time in which schools could 'reopen'?”

The answers were quite evenly split with 50% favouring a window of time and 46% favouring a specific date.

We asked how long schools would need to prepare for any re-opening

82% said that they could do this within three weeks. 11% felt they would need longer than three weeks.

We asked respondents what they would need to spend time working on during that three week period

The top responses were:

  • Reorganisation of school layout and configuration to follow social distancing guidelines (95%)
  • Staff availability (90%)
  • Re-organisation of daily timetable (84%)
  • Balancing the provision of remote learning with the new increased need for in-school education (84%)
  • Managing the needs of those pupils currently attending school (e.g vulnerable pupils) alongside other pupils newly returning to school (69%)

We asked what specific issues would prevent schools from opening to more pupils. 

  • Inability to implement appropriate social distancing measures (83%)
  • Lack of available staff (63%)
  • Lack of PPE (57%)

We asked respondents in which phases they felt it might be possible to achieve some form of social distancing.

Primary Respondents:

  • 47% said KS2
  • 7% said KS1
  • 2% said Early Years
  • 29% said it would not be possible in any phase

Secondary Respondents:

  • 18% said KS3
  • 42% said KS4
  • 47% said it would not be possible in any phase

We asked “what actions do you think you could realistically take to achieve social distancing for pupils in your school?”

  • Use of rotas to limit numbers of pupils in school (72%)
  • Staggered lunchtimes and breaktimes (66%)
  • Rearranging furniture and seating in classrooms (60%)
  • Splitting classes/cohorts across multiple classrooms (56%)
  • Staggered start / finish times for pupils (55%)
  • Increasing time spent outside (43%)
  • There are no actions I could realistically take to achieve social distancing for pupils (21%)

We asked what further guidance from government respondents would welcome as part of any preparation for re-opening

  • Social distancing measures (92%)
  • Supporting members of staff in high-risk groups (e.g those with underlying health conditions) (83%)
  • The requirement for and use of PPE in schools (76%)
  • Supporting pupils in high-risk groups (e.g those with underlying health conditions (72%)
  • Safety measures in schools (60%)
First published 05 May 2020