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Covid-19: our members’ questions answered

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Click on the links below to read members' questions on these topics. 

Please note, some of the guidance contained below may have been superseded by the specific guidance issued by the Department for Education (DfE) on 4 November 2020, which refers to the national lockdown in England, beginning on 5 November 2020. This latest piece of guidance should be checked too, and where there is any conflict, the new ‘lockdown’ guidance should takes precedence. 

We have released some new guidance specifically related to the government's guidance released on 4 November 2020, and you can access it here.

Accountability and inspections 

Has NAHT developed advice on Ofsted visits in 2020/21?

Yes, a separate advice document is available here.

Can governors visit schools in person again from September?

Yes, the DfE has confirmed that the new guidance for September does not prevent governors from going into schools. However, the DfE recommends that where visits can happen outside of school hours, they should do so. Depending on a school’s risk assessment, schools may choose to continue to host governor meetings virtually.

When considering how to organise visits from governors, you will need to consider your school’s risk assessment, which should include how the school will protect the health and safety of any visitors alongside staff and pupils. The Department’s guidance outlines how schools should consider managing visitors to the site; this includes ensuring site guidance on physical distancing and hygiene is explained to visitors on or before arrival, and maintaining a record of all visitors. 

5 November 2020 update: Please note, in light of the new national lockdown measures, schools may wish to consider whether governors meetings can be held virtually if they are not already doing so. 

What will happen about performance data for this academic year?

On 23 March, the DfE announced that it would not publish any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.

Schools and colleges will not be held to account based on exams and assessment data from summer 2020. That data will not be used by others, such as Ofsted and local authorities, to hold schools and colleges to account.

The DfE has published more detail about what this means for how school and college accountability will operate for 2019 to 2020. You can read its update here. 

Can I be held to account using 2020 teacher assessed data?

The government was clear in its guidance on covid-19 and accountability that: “We will not hold schools and colleges to account on the basis of exams and assessment data from summer 2020 and that data will not be used by others, such as Ofsted and local authorities, to hold schools and colleges to account.”

Government policy is also clear that if data on a school’s educational performance is needed, everyone, including LAs and Ofsted, should use data from previous years.

On that basis, if an LA or MAT is attempting to use 2020 data in this way, as a first step we would recommend reminding your MAT or LA about this clear policy from the government. If you do not make headway by way of this reminder of the government’s position please contact us via specialistadvice@naht.org.uk

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PPE and face coverings 

What is the government's guidance on face coverings in schools?

5 November 2020 update:

On 4 November 2020, the government changed its position on face coverings. The guidance for schools now states:

“In primary schools and education settings teaching year six and below, there is no change to the existing position. It is not mandatory for staff and visitors to wear face coverings. In situations where social distancing between adults in settings is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas), settings have the discretion to recommend the use of face coverings for adults on site, for both staff and visitors.

"In schools where pupils in year seven and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. This was already the case for pupils in year seven and above, and staff and visitors for those schools that were in areas where local alert level ‘high’ and ‘very high’.

"Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings, and we expect adults and pupils to be sensitive to those needs.

"Face coverings should also be worn by pupils in year seven and above when travelling on dedicated school transport to secondary school or college.” 

NAHT’s advice is that if social distancing cannot be maintained in communal areas and corridors, it would be prudent for primary schools to ask staff to wear face coverings in these areas unless there is a compelling reason not to. Erring on the side of caution would seem a sensible approach to take given the information coming out of the World Health Organisation. Please note, this does not apply to primary pupils. 

From a practical perspective, if you are in a primary school, we recommend informing your chair of governors, local authority and/or trust about the approach you are going to take in relation to face coverings to ensure everyone is aligned as there is potential for some push-back from some parents and pupils.  We also recommend that you develop a plan to communicate this to parents, pupils and staff to ensure the approach is clear.  You may also want to consider putting a policy in place which addresses issues such as the steps that will be taken if pupils don’t bring a face covering to school with them or refuse to wear it.  Consideration should also be given to children who are exempt from wearing face coverings due to unique needs – this will need to handled sensitively and should be considered in advance of the use of face coverings being implemented where possible.  It would also be useful to consider whether any pupils or staff have particular needs that could be impacted by those around them wearing face coverings, for example, deaf pupils and/or staff who may lip-read or partially rely upon lip-reading.  What steps can be taken to minimise the difficulties caused to these individuals by the use of face coverings?

Schools should also continue to be aware of the government’s exemption list when it comes to the use of face coverings. 

As stated previously, NAHT’s position remains that an inflexible blanket ban on staff wearing face coverings is unlikely to be helpful as settings, provision in schools and required tasks vary from setting to setting, even within a single local authority.

Most importantly, all schools have a duty of care to their staff, and this extends to their mental health and well-being.

If any school staff feel personally reassured and more confident in returning to fully reopened school settings by being allowed to wear appropriate face coverings, school leaders still retain the authority and flexibility within existing government guidance to allow this to happen. Schools will also need to take into consideration the ability of the staff member to undertake their work with children and young people effectively, especially pupils with hearing or communication impairments.

It will also be important to remind those members of staff about how face coverings should be used safely.

Special schools

It is important to remember that some pupils will be exempted from wearing face coverings and it is likely that a higher number of pupils in some special schools will fit into this category. Schools will want to consider the unique needs of their pupils and liaise with parents about this sensitive issue. School leaders know their individual pupils and are best placed to make individual decisions in consultation with parents in their settings.

Supporting pupils who are unable to wear face coverings

We have been made aware of some useful materials for use with children, young people and their families who, for a variety of reasons are unable to wear face-coverings, this might be particularly useful for journeys to and from school or general travel on public transport.

For some, wearing a face mask is not possible because of their disability or because it causes them severe distress. These are two examples of the reasons the government has set out for exemption, and people should never be abused for not wearing a mask – especially as many people may have a hidden disability.

Mencap has created easy read guidance to explain the rules and Keep Safe has produced an exemption card to help people with a learning disability explain why they are not wearing a mask.

Schools may wish to share these resources with their families.

Can staff wear visors instead of cloth face coverings?

The current government advice is: “If staff wish to wear a face visor, we recommend school leaders discuss the individual’s concerns with them and explain that there is no evidence that face shields/visors prevent transmission and in a school environment are unlikely to provide any protection for the wearer. As set out in our guidance on safe working in education (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safe-working-in-education-childcare-and-childrens-social-care) eye protection, such as a visor or goggles, need only be worn if a distance of two metres cannot be maintained from someone with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID 19) and a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of fluids entering the eye, for example, from coughing, spitting or vomiting.”

This means that in areas where face coverings are required, ie secondary schools where there are local restrictions, visors are not considered a suitable face covering. Where a school is not in an area where local restrictions apply, they could be an option, but it is important for staff to understand that a visor is not believed to offer the same protection as a face covering. 

What about safety measures in special schools, including the use of PPE?

You can find the government's advice on PPE in schools here.

The government has also published SEND risk assessment guidance.

The government's guidance suggests that: "The majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of two metres from others." 

NAHT is also aware that a number of local authorities have been supplying schools with additional PPE during this period, and we see no reason for this to now stop. 

The DfE has now announced the PPE will be made available to residential special schools, free of charge from the Department of Health and Social Care's PPE portal. Eligible settings have been sent an email inviting them to register for the PPE portal. If you haven’t received this invitation email, contact this number 0800 876 6802

NAHT is aware of the concerns members have about the DfE's and PHE's guidance on PPE, particularly in special schools. We are also aware of the concerns other unions have expressed. We are actively raising these concerns with the government. 

In the meantime, we are linking to a useful document that has been produced by Birmingham City Council and provides some information about PPE in schools. On this page, you will also find an example of a PPE policy that a special school has put in place.

The TES has also produced this video explaining how to wear PPE properly in an education setting. 

Our risk assessments show we need PPE. How can I obtain essential PPE if my school's usual suppliers are unable to assist?

The government's advice states: "Education and childcare settings and providers should use their local supply chains to obtain PPE.

"If education or childcare settings cannot obtain the PPE they need, they should approach their local authority (LA). Local authorities should support them to access local PPE markets and available stock locally, including through coordinating the redistribution of available supplies between settings according to priority needs.

"If the local authority is not able to meet the PPE needs of education and childcare providers, the LA should approach their nearest local resilience forum (LRF), which will allocate stock if it is available once the needs of other vital services locally have been met. If neither the LA nor LRF is able to respond to an education or childcare setting's unmet urgent need for PPE, the setting will need to make their own judgement in line with their risk assessment as to whether it is safe to continue to operate."

If, after exhausting all of the above advice from the government, your school continues to require essential PPE supplies urgently, NAHT has been made aware of an organisation that may be able to help.

SOS Supplies is a team of volunteers who have been supporting the NHS, charities, schools and other key workers in need of urgent PPE.

It matches organisations in need with UK PPE suppliers who have items currently in stock and ready to ship.

Each of the UK suppliers used on the lists has been checked by SOS Supplies for their reasonable prices (as they are supporting charities, NHS, etc.), appropriate certification and their links to any relevant government bodies.

Schools need to register their specific PPE needs on the website.

SOS Supplies then provides regular email updates showing which companies can provide PPE, their minimum order levels and prices – it is currently providing these on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It intends to continue this service throughout the covid-19 crisis.

Schools place their orders directly with the suppliers.

NAHT recommends that schools make direct contact with the chosen supplier and undertake due diligence (eg to ensure the specific PPE needs can be met) as you would with any purchase order.

What should I do if a parent tells me that their child will not be following the safety measures we have put in place, eg wearing face coverings? 

If children refuse to comply with school policy and put the safety of others at risk, then (subject to disability and other considerations) exclusion may be appropriate. 

However, DfE guidance (Face coverings in education - Published 26 August 2020) states that “no child should be excluded for not wearing a mask” so at the moment the position here is currently unclear. Our policy team is speaking to the DfE about this and we hope to provide further guidance soon. In the meantime, we recommend ensuring your school has a clear policy in relation to mask-wearing and the steps that will be taken for non-compliance and the governors/local authority/trust are made aware of the details of the policy to ensure a consistent voice.

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Reimbursement scheme and exceptions costs funding

What will the government's reimbursement scheme for schools cover?

The government has published updated guidance (24 June 2020) on the scheme here.

When making a claim under the exceptional costs funding, are school reserves taken into account?

Yes. The DfE amended its existing guidance on exceptional costs funding:

"Schools are not eligible to make a claim against this fund if they expect to add to their existing historic surpluses in their current financial year (September 2019 to August 2020 for academies and April 2020 to March 2021 for maintained schools). This means schools cannot claim if they began their current financial year with an accumulated historic surplus and expect to increase that surplus this year and thereby finish the year with a higher level of reserves than they started.

"Schools are eligible for reimbursement where the additional costs associated with coronavirus (covid-19) would:

  • result in a school having to use historic surpluses
  • increase the size of a historic deficit
  • prevent the planned repayment of a historic deficit."
Can schools claim for loss of income (for example, premises rental) through the exceptional cost guidance?

No. NAHT continues to press the DfE to recognise and reimburse these costs. Notwithstanding this, on 24 June, the DfE amended the existing guidance on exceptional costs funding, stating:

"We recognise that during this period of partial closure many publicly funded schools are not able to secure income from private sources that they normally would, for example letting facilities, providing wrap-around childcare or catering services. Lost self-generated income is not covered by this grant."

Can schools claim for exceptional costs associated with extending the opening of schools?

No. NAHT continues to press the DfE to recognise and reimburse these costs. Notwithstanding this, on 24 June, the DfE amended the existing guidance on exceptional costs funding, stating:

"Schools are not eligible to make claims for any additional costs associated with more pupils returning to school that are not covered by these categories. We have published guidance on the actions schools can take to open for more pupils in a way that minimises the risks of transmission. We anticipate that schools will typically be able to implement the measures set out in our guidance (including increases to routine cleaning) within their existing resources."

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Risk assessments and protecting vulnerable individuals 

Does NAHT have specific advice on issues relating to members with protected characteristics and other vulnerabilities who may be at increased risk?

As is the case in 'normal circumstances', employers will need to be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals. Any planning for the wider reopening of schools, such as designing staffing structures or development of any risk assessments, should take account of the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics or who appear to be in particular at-risk groups.

NAHT's advice is that schools should continue to assess individual members of staff who may be at increased covid-19 risk and put reasonable adjustments in place, especially for those staff with serious medical conditions and caring responsibilities.

NAHT is aware of and concerned by the particular impact covid-19 appears to be having on members of the BAME community. NAHT welcomes the scientific review of covid-19 deaths about BAME frontline staff, which is currently being undertaken by Public Health England, and hopes this will help to provide greater insight into the issue. 

In the meantime, we are working with colleagues in other unions and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to explore this issue, and it's implications for different sectors. We are also raising this issue as a matter of urgent priority in our conversations with the government. 

We believe that the NHS England's guidance below, while not directly applicable to schools, is a useful starting point for members:

"Organisations should continue to assess staff who may be at increased risk and take account of reasonable adjustments, individual health concerns and caring responsibilities. In the light of emerging evidence that BAME people are disproportionately affected by covid-19, employers should also risk-assess such staff and make appropriate deployment arrangements on a precautionary basis."

The organisation BAMEed has also produced some handy resources for schools, including guidance on risk assessments. 

We will continue to update our position based on our work with other unions and the government. 

Am I required to undertake an equality impact assessment alongside any risk assessments?

An equality impact assessment (EIA) is an analysis of a proposed organisational policy, or a change to an existing one, which assesses whether the policy has a disparate impact on persons with protected characteristics.

While equality impact assessments are not legally required for schools in England, they are considered an established and credible tool for demonstrating due regard to the public sector equality duty (PSED), which schools are required to adhere to by law. Essentially, this means that schools are required to assess the impact their proposed policies have on equality, but there is not a specified way in which to do so. 

Given it is likely that there have been a number of changes to schools' risk assessments in recent months and in light of evidence that suggests certain groups with protected characteristics are at particular risk, NAHT encourages schools in England to consider the use of equality impact assessments or some other similar form of written record when developing their risk assessments; this is to help them demonstrate that there has been active consideration of equality duties and they have considered the appropriate, relevant questions.

Wales and Northern Ireland

For schools in Wales and Northern Ireland, there is a statutory duty to complete equality impact assessments. Therefore schools must have due regard to this when making any changes to policies, including risk assessments.

You can find further advice and guidance on applicability and requirements of the Equality Act 2010 from the Department for Education here, and in NAHT's advice and guidance here. Schools may also find the following guidance a useful template.

For Northern Ireland schools, there is specific guidance from the NI Equality Commission here.

The impact of the coronavirus on employees' sick pay

NAHT encourages schools to take a common sense and flexible approach, given the unprecedented nature of the current circumstances. However, school leaders should also be aware of the provisions set out in the 'Burgundy Book', section four, sick pay scheme, 'contact with infectious diseases', paragraphs 10.1 and 10.3 in particular. (The Burgundy Book, typically held by HR departments, sets out the conditions of service for school teachers and leaders in England and Wales).

"10.1 When the approved medical practitioner attests that there is evidence to show a reasonable probability that an absence was due to an infectious or contagious illness contracted directly in the course of the teacher's employment, full pay shall be allowed for such period of absence as may be authorised by the approved medical practitioner as being due to the illness, and such absence shall not be reckoned against the teacher's entitlement to sick leave under paragraph 2 above, though such absences are reckonable for entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay".

"10.3 A teacher residing in a house in which some other person is suffering from an infectious disease, shall at once notify the employer and the teacher shall, if required, take such precautions as may be prescribed, provided that if in the opinion of the approved medical practitioner it is considered inadvisable, notwithstanding such precautions, for such teacher to attend duty, full pay shall be allowed during any enforced absence from duty, such pay being sick pay for the purpose of paragraphs 3 to 7.5 above. This provision will also apply where, in the opinion of an approved medical practitioner, it is inadvisable for a teacher to attend duty for precautionary reasons due to infectious disease in the workplace. The period of the absence under this paragraph shall not be reckoned against the teacher's entitlement to sick leave under paragraph 2 above, though such absences are reckonable for entitlements to Statutory Sick Pay."

What should I do about risk assessment ‘checklists’ being provided by other unions?

A number of unions have worked together and published a joint checklist for their union reps ahead of a full reopening in September. 

In many cases, schools will have already consulted with staff and unions and written risk assessments ahead of September. Where this is the case, there is no requirement to revisit these. However, risk assessments remain dynamic and should be updated if and when changes in the situation require them to do so. Furthermore, school leaders will want to remain engaged with staff and union representatives and should be open to a process of continual improvement based on ongoing feedback and discussion.  

School leaders may find many of the questions posed in this checklist useful when reviewing their risk assessments.  

The document is not intended to replace a school’s risk assessment, and there is no expectation that school leaders should ‘complete’ the checklist themselves.  

Schools leaders have a legal duty to consult with staff and union representatives when carrying out risk assessments. However, this does not remove a leader’s managerial responsibility, and risk assessments do not need to be formally ‘signed-off’ by other unions/staff. 

What about staff who are shielding/clinically vulnerable/clinically extremely vulnerable?

Update on clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable staff on 4 November 2020

Following the prime minister’s announcement on 31 October 2020 that schools are to remain open during a month-long national lockdown, NAHT immediately raised the issue of clinically vulnerable (CV) and clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) staff and pupils with the DfE (please note, this document only addresses the specific issue of CV and CEV staff). 

Clearly, this is a huge concern for our members, both as individuals who may themselves fall into one of these categories, but also as leaders and managers who will have staff who fall into these categories. 

Schools are clearly very different to other workplaces, even those that are being asked to remain open during lockdown, and we have already seen that measures such as social distancing cannot be replicated in schools in the way they might be applied in many other workplaces. 

As such, following the prime minister’s announcement, we asked for urgent clarification for the government’s position on CV and CEV staff in schools. 

On 4 November 2020, the government published its guidance on this issue. It states: 

“Those individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to work from home and not to go into work. Individuals in this group will have been identified through a letter from the NHS or from their GP, and they may have been advised to shield in the past. Staff should talk to their employers about how they will be supported, including to work from home where possible, during the period of national restrictions.

"All other staff should continue to attend work, including those living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

"Staff … who are clinically vulnerable or have underlying health conditions but are not clinically extremely vulnerable, may continue to attend school in line with current guidance.”

This means that, according to the government’s current guidance, members of staff who fall under the clinically vulnerable category can still attend school during the lockdown period, so too can staff who live with someone in the clinically extremely vulnerable category. 

However, as a union, we remain concerned about this position. 

Clearly, there is an enormous challenge for school leaders here. We know that given the nature of the Clinically Vulnerable definition, it is likely to prove impossible for many schools to remain fully open if all CV staff remain at home during the national lockdown. At the same time, school leaders will be extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of their staff, especially those who are in the CV category and those who live with someone in the CEV category. They also have their own safety and well-being to consider.

We have made it clear to the government that we are concerned about this situation. We are calling on the government to do much more to demonstrate how and why it is safe for CV staff and those living with someone who is CEV to attend school and give clearer guidance to schools on how these staff can be protected. If the government is unable to do this, we believe it may be necessary for it to take a different approach. 

In the meantime, our advice to members is to: 

  • Share the government’s latest guidance on CV and CEV people with all staff – in the time available, have an open and honest conversation with staff about the implications of this for the school and the challenges it presents to everyone involved
  • Identify anyone who meets the criteria for CEV and discuss with them how they will be able to support learning from home during the lockdown period – there will then need to be a review of how their work in school might be covered during this period
  • Review the individual risk assessments of any CV staff to see if there are any further measures that could be put into place to further reduce the risks they face. For example, further limiting any contact with parents before or after school at drop-off and collection time, tighter restrictions around interacting with other staff, ie in the staffroom, staff meetings etc, additional use of face coverings in communal areas, tighter restrictions in terms of moving around school.
  • Given the current restrictions, it might also make sense to look to limit the time staff are spending in school, eg cancelling any face-to-face, non-essential meetings or moving to virtual/remote meetings. 

Ultimately, it will always remain the case that schools can only open as far as it is safe to do so. If schools find that they reach a point where a reduction in staffing numbers means they do not have the capacity to keep all classes open safely (ie if there is no staff available) school leaders may have no alternative but to review whether they need to implement a short-term partial closure. If you feel you might be approaching this position, we strongly advise that you discuss this with your governing body and also your Local Authority / MAT before taking any action. It is important to demonstrate that these conversations have taken place. 

In the meantime, NAHT will continue to challenge the government on its current position and keep members up to date with any new developments.

Should you require specific advice and support, you can contact our advice team on 0300 30 30 333.

What does the guidance say about women who are pregnant?

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) has published occupational health advice for employers and pregnant women. This document includes advice for women from 28 weeks’ gestation or with underlying health conditions who may be at greater risk. This is referenced in the “Guidance for full opening: schools”, and in this, the government advises employers and pregnant women to follow this advice and to continue to monitor for future updates to it. You can find the link to the occupational health advice from the RCOG here.

However, when you click through to the RCOG guidance, the advice which was most relevant has now been archived. The other sources of information are still useful but the value of the occupational health advice from the RCOG is now unclear.

I have been asked to review a risk assessment for a member of staff who is deemed clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable in light of the changing circumstance. What should I do? 

The first thing to point out is that all risk assessments should ideally be dynamic documents that you review as the context or situation changes. Given the current situation, it would be good practice for all covid-19 related risk assessments to be kept under regular review. 

If a member of staff who is at particular risk feels that their personal circumstances or the wider context require a risk assessment to be reviewed, we would recommend that such a request is accommodated.

It is not possible to give very specific guidance on this because each school and individual will have a different set of circumstances that they will need to take into account. However,  we recommend that schools reach out to their local health and safety teams within local authorities who should be able to provide templates and advice on how best to complete and review such risk assessments. Furthermore, it is important to remember that risk assessments are not designed to completely eradicate all risk but to help reduce and control these risks. 

When completing risk assessments for members of staff who are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable, it is important to be aware of what the latest government's guidance says on this matter. Below we have included some key parts of that information, which was up to date as of 21 October 2020. Given that the government's guidance can change frequently, we strongly recommend you always refer to the original guidance as well. 

What are my responsibilities when it comes to staff members needing to self-isolate? 

The government has recently introduced the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020, and there is now a legal requirement for an adult to self-isolate when notified by NHS staff, local authority staff or the Secretary of State that they have: 

  • tested positive for coronavirus (after 28 September 2020), or
  • had close contact (after 28 September 2020) with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. 

Employers also have duties under these regulations, which are triggered when a person is required to self-isolate as noted above but also if a person is required to self-isolate under regulation 4 of the International Travel Regulations, which impose quarantine restrictions for people arriving into England. As these regulations change on a frequent basis, we recommend keeping up to date with the restrictions at all times. 

Regulation 7 makes it an offence for an employer to knowingly permit a member of staff (or agency worker) who is required to self-isolate, to attend the workplace; however, they may work from "the designated place of isolation", usually the home, if they are able to do so. If an employer fails to do this, the penalty is £1,000 for a first offence, £2,000 for a second, £4,000 for a third and £10,000 for each subsequent offence. 

It is worth noting that the employer offence of knowingly allowing a worker in the workplace who is, or should be, isolating (in accordance with Regulation 7) can be committed by an officer of a body corporate. The governing body of a maintained school and an academy trust are both bodies corporate and a head teacher, principal, CEO would come within the definition of  ‘officer’, which is “a director, manager, secretary or other similar officers of the body corporate”. 

Under Regulation 8, there is an obligation on the individual who is aware of their requirement to self-isolate, to notify their employer of this requirement and the start and end date of the isolation period. Any individual who breaches self-isolation will, normally, commit a criminal offence. On that basis, we want to stress to members that they mustn’t attend the workplace if required to self-isolate and must inform their employer (the designated person responsible for this) of their need to self-isolate and the end of the isolation period.

We recommend refreshing messaging and policies in light of these new regulations. It should be made clear to staff that they must notify the school if they are required to self-isolate and that failure to do so may be a disciplinary matter. Staff should also be given a named individual (or individuals) to notify and these designated individuals must be fully briefed. If a head teacher is required to self-isolate, thought should be given in advance as to who they should notify; we would recommend considering individuals such as the chair, CEO (if applicable) or HR lead at the local authority.  Given the importance of this issue, we would also recommend making the governing body aware of these requirements particularly as they are caught under the terms of the regulations as a ‘body corporate’, so they can be satisfied with the steps being taken and also their role in this.

The key point here is that you should ensure staff are aware of the need to notify and the process for doing this and that if you are notified, that member of staff must not be allowed to attend the school or work from anywhere other than “the designated place of isolation”.  In addition, if you need to self-isolate, do not take this lightly; make the relevant notification and do not leave your “designated place of isolation”.  It is a very real possibility that police may take action in relation to breaches of these requirements, and so ensuring you have a robust process in place is key.

If this becomes an issue for you, it’s really important that you contact us a matter of urgency as offences can be committed by ‘officers’, which could include some school leaders, and the consequences of this can be very serious. Members should contact NAHT immediately if they are accused of offences under these regulations, receive a Fixed Penalty Notice or any contact from the police in relation to a possible breach of the regulations.  You can call us on 0300 30 30 333 (select option 1) or email us via the following link.

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Social bubbles, distancing and other protective measures

Should my 'bubbles' be the size of a class or a year group?

Schools have the flexibility to make a decision that works in their context, based on their risk assessments. While the overarching approach is that smaller groups are preferable (particularly where social distancing is impossible), if that means that schools are unable to deliver a full curriculum and operate effectively, they are free to increase the bubble to the size of a whole year group.

Small schools and special schools may decide to have bubbles that have more than one year group in where they already operate on that basis, ie classes with multiple year groups. 

Do children in the early years have to sit in rows facing the front?

No. The Department for Education's (DfE's) guidance suggests that pupil sat facing the front is one measure schools could take; it is not mandatory. 

The idea is that by not having pupils facing each other directly (ie facing the front instead), it reduces the risk of spreading the virus via respiratory droplets.

However, if schools decide that such an approach would prevent them from delivering the EYFS, then this is not a mandatory approach. As always, leaders should carry out risk assessments to determine the measures they will put in place to reduce risks in their schools and settings.

This also applies to pupils in older year groups. 

Do I have to keep the 'bubbles' the same in breakfast/after-school club as during the school day?

The short answer to this question is no. 

The DfE has acknowledged that it may not be logistically possible to keep the groups or bubbles the same in wrap-around care as they are in school.

Obviously, if it is possible, then it would be advisable to keep the groups the same.

Where it is not (as is likely to be the case for most schools), schools are advised to keep groups in breakfast and after-school clubs as small and consistent as possible. 

It would be advisable to write to parents to inform them of the approach the school is taking to wrap-around care.

Am I able to close early on a Friday afternoon from September for deep cleaning/whole-school PPA? 

NAHT has developed an advice document on 'reducing the school week', which you can read here.

We are a very small school. Can we have a whole-school bubble?

The DfE has not set a specific upper limit on the number of pupils within a bubble. The general principle is that schools should keep bubbles as small and consistent as they can. If you can split the school into smaller bubble sizes, this is recommended, even if it is only for part of the time.

However, if making bubbles too small has a significantly negative impact on your ability to operate your school or run a full and balanced curriculum, the bubbles can be larger than the size of a class. 

Ultimately, these are decisions that should be reflected in a school’s risk assessment.  

Can staff still deliver 1:1 interventions with pupils?

Yes, they can. 

Staff who are working with pupils across different bubbles are advised to take additional precautions. For example, remaining 1m+ apart if possible and avoiding close face-to-face contact.

How often should children wash their hands?

The DfE and PHE’s guidance states that “schools must ensure that pupils clean their hands regularly, including when they arrive at school, when they return from breaks, when they change rooms, and before and after eating.”

Washing hands with soap and water when changing rooms may pose a logistical challenge, and in this situation, hand sanitiser may be an easier option. 

Is there any advice about regular cleaning? 

The government has published specific advice about cleaning in non-healthcare settings, and this covers schools. You can find that guidance here

Do the arrangements for staff going on holiday and having to quarantine when they return apply to other school breaks such as half-term and Christmas?

Based on the government’s current guidelines, there could be a scenario where a member of staff goes on holiday and is then unable to return to school because they are expected to self-isolate for two weeks. 

It is important to point out that the government’s guidelines on this could change, and school leaders will want to review the latest guidelines by the government when making decisions on this issue. 

It is also important to acknowledge that, given the current situation, it is unlikely that large numbers of people will be going on foreign holidays as planned.

However, NAHT has produced a technical document in partnership with LGA and ASCL that outlines the legal position and the options available to schools. While this was produced with summer holidays in mind, the legal aspects and the issues to consider are equally applicable to other school breaks at this time.  

School leaders will want to start by highlighting the current guidelines and establishing whether there are any staff who think they may be affected. This will enable leaders to have conversations with those people about the likely implications.  
Can we continue to use supply and peripatetic teachers, and can they work across bubbles? 

Yes. The DfE's guidance states that supply teachers, peripatetic teachers and other temporary staff can move between schools. This means that they can work across bubbles if this is unavoidable. However, they should ensure they minimise contact and maintain as much distance as possible from other staff. Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual. 

Schools will want to take a similar approach for teachers moving across bubbles for PPA cover.

Can schools still carry out lesson observations this term?

There is nothing in the government’s guidance that explicitly prohibits lesson observations, or senior leaders visiting classrooms this term. However, NAHT recommends that both of these activities should be included and documented in the school’s risk assessment, with appropriate additional protective measures put in place. For example, anyone visiting a classroom to carry out a lesson observation should adhere more strictly to social distancing rules and should ensure they wash hands both before entering and after leaving the classroom. Consideration should also be given to the amount of time spent in the classroom and limited where possible. 

We would recommend that external consultants are not brought into the school to support with lesson observations during the national lockdown period. If you do decide to, this should be subject to a thorough risk assessment. 

What should I do if a parent refuses to allow their child to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser?

We are aware that some parents will ask that their children do not use alcohol-based hand-sanitiser. Where this is the case, regular hand washing using soap and water should be considered instead.

The World Health Organization has produced a useful information page on alcohol-based hand-rub.  This includes information about its usage and storage. While not aimed at schools, members may find some of the content useful. 

What should we do about heating and ventilation during the pandemic?

The Health and Safety Executive has stated that “employers must, by law, ensure an adequate supply of fresh air in the workplace and this has not changed. Good ventilation can help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, so focus on improving general ventilation, preferably through fresh air or mechanical systems.

The HSE advice on air conditioning and ventilation during the pandemic can be found here.

Consideration should have been given to the ways you can best ventilate the school in the risk assessments you will have already completed.

Where possible, it is important to consider ways to maintain and increase the supply of fresh air, for example, by opening windows and doors (unless fire doors).  Also, consider if you can improve the circulation of outside air and prevent pockets of stagnant air in occupied spaces. You can do this by using ceiling fans or desk fans, for example, provided good ventilation is maintained. The risk of transmission through the use of ceiling and desk fans is extremely low providing there is good ventilation in the area it is being used, preferably provided by fresh air.”

Schools may be interested in an approach we understand is being taken in Germany when it comes to ventilation. We understand that the German government’s guidelines for covid are going to be extended to incorporate the concept of airing rooms known as “Lüftenor”.  “Regular impact ventilation in all private and public rooms can considerably reduce the danger of infection,” the government’s recommendation explains.  Impact ventilation, or Stosslüften, which is being suggested by the German government requires windows to be opened wide in the morning and evening for a minimum of five minutes to allow the air to circulate. The German government has also stated that “Querlüften”, or cross ventilation, is even more efficient; this is a process where all windows in a building are opened letting stale air flow out and fresh air come in for as long as possible but for at least five minutes in the morning and evening.  Where it is impossible for windows to remain open all day, this approach could be included in risk assessments alongside other measures. It should be noted that this is not official UK government advice, but it offers an interesting approach being explored in different countries.  

Clearly, as we move towards winter some of the steps you may have taken to increase appropriate ventilation, such as opening windows, becomes more problematic. The regulations that govern temperatures in school, the School Premises (England) Regulations 2012, do not specify minimum temperatures for any parts of a school, however, The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which apply to all workplaces, including schools, set out requirements on minimum temperatures in workplaces. Regulation 7 requires that temperatures be “reasonable” and the accompanying Approved Code of Practice defines this as "normally at least 16°C.”  It is worth noting that this temperature recommendation is not an absolute legal requirement; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in particular circumstances.  On that basis, a balance will need to be struck between providing appropriate ventilation and providing a reasonable temperature for pupils and staff to work in.

Again, the key to this will be to build the change in temperature into your risk assessment and determine how this will be approached. Whilst there is no ‘easy answer’, planning in advance and speaking to staff about these plans will be key. There will be a range of questions you will want to work through including, will heating be turned on and windows remain open?  Is your heating system one that recirculates air, if so has this been serviced and are there any additional considerations you need to take into account? (We advise that schools make contact with Health and Safety or property management teams within their LA / MAT to see if they have further advice or information about heating systems and how they operate).

You will also want to consider if pupils and staff can be asked to wear extra layers to allow for temperatures to be slightly lower than normal so windows can be kept open for longer into the winter. There are no ‘right’ answers here and we recommend working with your local authority or trust to come up with an approach.  We also recommend informing the governors of the decisions taken in relation to this, so you can agree on communication to parents to ensure a united front.  Finally and importantly we recommend making the staff aware of the approach before a communication is sent to the parents.

The DfE has confirmed that it is acceptable to make changes to uniform requirements and this would include allowing pupils and staff to wear additional layers in the classroom during the pandemic if there is a need to keep windows open to provide adequate ventilation in certain spaces.

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers has produced a more technical guide, which can be accessed here

Furthermore, the following guidance from REHVA sets out a series of steps that schools can take to improve the number of air changes achieved within the school’s day, which includes actions before and after the school's day and during break periods between lessons. While improving ventilation is one control, schools should continue to ensure that the wider controls of social distancing, personal hygiene and enhanced cleaning are implemented and maintained. This guidance offers a series of factors that schools should consider. 

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Testing and dealing with positive cases of covid-19

What should we do if someone in school tests positive for covid-19? 
If pupils are in the hall together for lunch and one of those has a positive test for covid-19, does everyone else have to isolate?
If we have a positive case in a bubble, do other bubbles with siblings also need to test and isolate?

The DfE's guidance states that if someone in school tests positive, the school should contact the local health protection team. The health protection team will provide definitive advice on who must be sent home. The health protection team will carry out a rapid risk assessment to confirm who has been in close contact with the person during the period that they were infectious, and ensure they are asked to self-isolate. 

The health protection team will work with schools in this situation to guide them through the actions they need to take. Based on the advice from the health protection team, schools must send home those people who have been in close contact with the person who tested positive, advising them to self-isolate for 14 days since they were last in close contact with that person when they were infectious. 

Schools should take the advice of the local health protection teams when deciding who should be asked to isolate.

Can a school refuse to let a pupil attend if they have Covid-19 symptoms?

The following advice has been agreed with the Department for Education:

'Where a child has symptoms of coronavirus, they should be sent home and advised to follow ‘stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’, which sets out that they should self-isolate for at least 10 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19).

In the vast majority of cases, schools and parents will be in agreement that a child should not attend school, given the potential risk to others. In the event that a parent or guardian insists on a child attending school, schools can take the decision to refuse the child if, in their reasonable judgement, it is necessary to protect their pupils and staff from possible infection with coronavirus (COVID-19). Any decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and the current public health advice.  

In addition, NAHT would suggest that where time allows it is worth informing your chair of governors, local authority or trust of the decision.  We would also recommend keeping a short contemporaneous note of the factors considered when making this decision.  It should be made clear that the child should return to school when the 10 day self-isolation period would end.

If a child develops covid-19 symptoms while in school, do I have to immediately send home anyone who has been in close contact with that child? 

No. The DfE's guidance states that: “Any members of staff who have helped someone with symptoms and any pupils who have been in close contact with them do not need to go home to self-isolate unless they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should arrange a test) or if the symptomatic person subsequently tests positive or they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace.” 

Should I ask parents for evidence of a negative test before a child returns to school? 

No, the guidance explicitly states the schools should not ask for this.

When can I expect to receive home testing kits and when can these be used?

On 25 August, the DfE announced that schools will start receiving these via the Royal Mail  - this is scheduled to begin on 26 August. The DfE guidance states that: “You should only offer a home test kit to individuals who have developed symptoms while at school or college (or to their parent or carer if the child is under 18) in the exceptional circumstance that you believe they may have barriers to accessing a test elsewhere, and that giving them a home test kit directly will therefore significantly increase the likelihood of them getting tested.”  While we do not believe there is currently a requirement to keep a record of why you offered a test to a particular individual, it would be prudent to keep a short note (bullet form only) where this does take place, in case asked to gather this information at a later date. 

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Visitors to school 

Can parents’ evenings and meetings still go ahead in the autumn term?

The DfE has told us the following on this matter:

“Schools should consider how best to run events such as parents’ evenings based on their own risk assessment and the system of controls that they have put in place.

As DfE guidance advises limiting the number of visitors and any large gatherings, it may be most appropriate for schools to consider a flexible approach, with alternative options for face-to-face meetings offered to parents where possible. Where face-to-face meetings are arranged, schools should make clear to parents that they must adhere to the system of controls that schools have in place. This includes no gathering at entrance gates or doors and maintaining social distancing. 

Schools will also have the discretion to require face coverings for visitors where social distancing cannot be safely managed, and if they believe it is right to do so in their particular circumstances. Ultimately, minimising contact and mixing between people reduces transmission of coronavirus and schools must consider how to implement this."

NAHT’s view is that given the current situation and restrictions on visitors to schools, we would advise schools to try and hold virtual parent meetings wherever possible. We recommend that face-to-face meetings with parents are by exception, for example where parents do not have access to the necessary technology. If parents and carers are permitted to come into school for such meetings, this should be considered and reflected in the school’s risk assessment and consideration should be given to additional control measures, such as the use of face coverings and strict social distancing.  

5 November 2020 update: Given the introduction of new restrictions from 5 November 2020, we strongly advise there should be no face-to-face events of this nature.

Can we still hold open days/events?

The DfE has provided the following guidance to NAHT on this issue:

It is important that prospective parents and carers have the opportunity to find out more about the schools they are considering sending their children to. However, as DfE guidance advises limiting the number of visitors and any large gatherings, it is recommended that schools consider alternatives to face to face open events where possible (such as virtual events, online videos etc). If a school does decide to go ahead with face to face open events, it is essential that a risk assessment is in place and appropriate control measures are put in place. Ultimately, minimising contact and mixing between people reduces transmission of coronavirus and schools must consider how to implement this. 

NAHT's view is that given current circumstances, and the fact that such events bring large numbers of adults from different households together, we would advise schools to consider postponing these in the autumn term, or creating alternative arrangements for prospective parents, eg video tours, online meetings etc. 

If a school does decide to proceed with an open event, we strongly advise that a separate risk assessment is written. This should clearly identify the additional control measures that will be put in place, eg arrangements to ensure social distancing, the use of face coverings, hand washing etc. We also advise schools to seek to liaise with local/regional public health authorities to take advice on the appropriateness of such an event taking place.

5 November 2020 update: Given the introduction of new restrictions from 5 November 2020, we strongly advise there should be no face-to-face events of this nature.

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Staffing and professional matters

What is NAHT’s position on professional matters, such as performance management, capability, restructuring, redundancy etc?

NAHT has worked with colleagues at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Governance Association (NGA) to produce comprehensive advice on a range of professional matters including those listed above. You can access that here. 

Does NAHT have any advice on cover and supply teaching during covid-19?

During these unprecedented times, where rates of covid-19 are rising and we head towards winter with a governmental undertaking that schools will be the last places to close, it is important to review your policy on cover and pose questions about how you will manage should staff fall ill or have to self-isolate. 

The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) states the following about cover: 

"52.7. Teachers should be required to provide cover in accordance with paragraph 50.7 only rarely, and only in circumstances that are not foreseeable (this does not apply to teachers who are employed wholly or mainly for the purpose of providing such cover)." 

Both the NASUWT and the NEU refer to ‘rarely cover’ in their guidance and expect schools to stick rigidly to that principle. This applies to members of the leadership team as much as it does to any other teacher. 

The STPCD goes on to state the following about planning and preparation time: 

"52.5. All teachers who participate in the teaching of pupils are entitled to reasonable periods of Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time as part of the 1265 hours referred to in paragraph 51.5 or pro-rata equivalent (as the case may be) to enable the discharge of the professional responsibilities of teaching and assessment. PPA time must be provided in units of not less than half an hour during the school’s timetabled teaching week and must amount to not less than 10% of the teacher’s timetabled teaching time. A teacher must not be required to carry out any other duties during the teacher’s PPA time."

School budgets are being stretched to the limit (and beyond), and the government has said it would not refund additional costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak in the autumn term. So, what do you have available to you as options? 

  1. Discuss the possible approaches for your school to take regarding cover. Acknowledge and discuss the very unusual times schools are working in and how that might mean some changes to usual practice. Reaffirm your commitment to staff continuing to get the release and non-contact time they are entitled to. Look for agreement and consensus from the staff who might be concerned. You will need to continue to aim to get supply staff in when an absence is known about in advance. You might ask for some flexibility from staff regarding PPA, guaranteeing it but asking that, if necessary, it might be moved to another time in the week to ensure the continuation of classes 
  2. Discuss with your leadership team (if you have one) the role they might play in cover arrangements, especially in ‘emergency’ situations. Discuss what management activities might have to be put on hold to ensure this can happen. Consider what risk factors might be associated with certain (perhaps vulnerable) staff covering across bubbles
  3. Exploit the flexible approach to the deployment of staff outlined in the government’s guidance (section on staff deployment) while being very attentive to workload and considering what activities can be put on hold or jettisoned for the duration of the staffing crisis. Consider monitoring and reviewing the pattern of cover undertaken by individual staff members over time to share the additional cover commitments as fairly as possible across the staff team 
  4. Consider reaching out to your usual supply teachers/agencies to discuss in advance what their availability might be like and their ability to respond to short-notice requests
  5. Pro-actively plan for what actions schools will take if individual members of staff or groups of staff are forced to self-isolate at short notice
  6.  Consider using the DfE and Crown Commercial Service's agency supply deal (here) to secure supply staff as per the government’s advice. Consider the long-term placement of a supply teacher to preserve, as much as possible, the integrity of school bubbles. Is there merit in employing on a six-month contract, a cover supervisor, whose primary role is to cover lessons for absent colleagues but whose contract stipulates other (mainly administrative) roles should cover not be necessary? 

Finally, if the possible six options explained above still aren’t enough, you should contact your local authority or MAT.

What is NAHT doing on your behalf?

  • Lobbying the government to fully reimburse the funding of additional costs resulting from the coronavirus crisis
  • Working with individual MPs and civil servants to raise their awareness of the issue of additional costs
  • Lobbying the government to improve the national testing structure and prioritise school staff so that time out of school is kept to a minimum and only when absolutely necessary
  • Raising awareness of these additional costs through our communications and media work.

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Other 

What is the latest advice regarding dedicated school transport?

The government published its ‘Transport to school and other places of education: autumn term 2020’ on 11 August 2020.

This advice document applies from the start of the autumn term. It applies to local authorities in England but will, of course, be of interest to schools, further education providers and transport operators in England as well.

It provides guidance on:

  • managing capacity and demand on public transport
  • taking measures to reduce risk on dedicated home to school or college transport.

Schools may wish to work with local authorities in order to ensure that they, their pupils and families are as well prepared as possible for transport arrangements. School leaders may also wish to assist local authorities and their school-transport providers in communicating new arrangements to their pupils and their families as soon as possible prior to 1 September 2020.

For pupils with SEND, the school-transport advice suggests a more flexible approach of joint planning between local authorities, the school and the child / young person’s parents in order to best meet their transport needs as safely as possible.

Other responsibilities, including the issue of managing behaviour on dedicated school-transport, remains in place as previously outlined in the government’s Home to school travel and transport guidance - Statutory guidance for local authorities document published in July 2014.

Where can I access support for my well-being?

Education Support Partnership's helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is completely confidential and provides you with support by telephone or online from specialist call handlers and counsellors who understand the demands of working in education. It provides the following:

  • emotional support and counselling
  • specialist information on work-life balance   
  • specialist information on eldercare, childcare and disabled care support
  • financial and legal information
  • management consultation to support those responsible for managing others
  • up to six sessions of telephone counselling
  • access to Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT)
  • information on local services such as eldercare and childcare.

Its experts assess each call individually and decide on the best course of action for each caller, whether counselling, CCBT or signposting the caller to additional services.

Its telephone number is as follows: 0800 917 4055.

Is there government advice on support for NQTs taking up a post in September 2020?

The DfE has published non-statutory advice to support the induction of NQTs taking up a post in September 2020. The advice offers information for NQTs on their entitlement to support and guidance for schools supporting them. The advice is available here.

Statutory guidance on NQT induction, which schools must follow, is available here. 

The DfE also published guidance on changes to induction requirements during the covid-19 pandemic on 1 May, which you can find here.

Are we able to run staff meetings/INSET days in person?

There is nothing in the current government guidance to say that schools cannot run such meetings.

However, such a decision should always be informed and underpinned by an appropriate risk assessment and steps taken to minimise any risk as far as is possible.

As with any activity, schools should work through the following generic steps when looking at risk management and consider the following:

Elimination: is it possible to stop an activity that is not essential if there are risks attached? For example, are whole staff meetings, in their present format, essential?

Substitution: can you replace the activity with another that reduces the risk? Care is required to avoid introducing new hazards due to the substitution. For example, could staff meet separately in smaller, linked groups across the week? For some meetings, is it feasible to still meet via Microsoft Teams or Skype?

Engineering controls: can you design measures that help to control or mitigate risk? For example, staff meet in a well-ventilated room(s) and chairs set to allow for appropriate social distancing.

Administrative controls: can you identify and implement the procedures to improve safety? For example, clear markings on the floor or signage.

If, after working through such a process, you decide that it is essential for staff to meet in person and you have put in place what mitigation factors you can, you may also want to consider the government's guidance concerning meetings held in an office workplace. This is because it may provide additional things to consider when planning meetings in school.

The government suggests that you consider the following steps when planning meetings:

  1. Using remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings
  2. Only absolutely necessary participants should physically attend meetings and should maintain social distancing (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable)
  3. Avoiding transmission during meetings; for example, avoiding sharing pens, documents and other objects
  4. Providing hand sanitiser in meeting rooms
  5. Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible
  6. For areas where regular meetings take place, using floor signage to help people to maintain social distancing.

From a school perspective, this could mean that using a larger space than normal, such as the school hall, or ensuring 2m social distancing between attendees. It also means that you should give particular consideration to activities such as close group work. This is because it is unlikely to be possible to reduce the risks involved sufficiently at present – again, the use of technology could be helpful here.  

Schools may also wish to consider the use of face coverings for staff during such meetings in line with the government's guidance on this issue. 

What is the government’s ‘plan B’ should further attendance restrictions be required in the 2020/21 academic year? 

On 28 August 2020, the government published its ‘tiered approach’ should further attendance restrictions be required in 2020/21. You can find details of that approach and what it means for each type of school in annex three of this webpage. 

The government has said that In local areas where restrictions have been implemented for certain sectors (from national direction), they anticipate that education and childcare will usually remain fully open to all, with the additional requirement that face coverings should be worn by staff and pupils in schools and colleges, from year seven and above, outside of classrooms when moving around communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. 

However, there may be exceptional circumstances in which some level of restriction to education or childcare is required in a local area. In those situations, restrictions will be implemented in a phased manner – the key aim being to retain as much face-to-face education and access to childcare as possible. These ‘tiers of restriction’ will ensure that extensive limitations on education and childcare are a last resort, and that priority is given to vulnerable children and children of critical workers for face-to-face provision in all cases. 

In simple terms, the four tiers are as follows: 

  • Tier one: an area moving into national intervention with restrictions short of education and childcare closure is described as ‘tier one'. At tier one, all nurseries, childminders, schools, colleges and other educational establishments should remain open and continue to allow all their children and young people to attend, on-site, with no other restrictions in place (the only difference in education settings is that where pupils in year seven and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils outside of classrooms where social distancing cannot easily be maintained)
  • Tier two: early years settings, primary schools and alternative provision (AP) providers, special schools and other specialist settings will continue to allow all children/pupils to attend on-site. Secondary schools move to a rota model, combining on-site provision with remote education
  • Tier three: childcare, nurseries, primary schools, AP, special schools and other specialist settings will continue to allow all children/pupils to attend on-site. Secondary schools, FE colleges and other educational establishments would allow full-time on-site provision only to vulnerable children, the children of critical workers and selected year groups (to be identified by the DfE). Other pupils should not attend on-site. Remote education to be provided for all other pupils.
  • Tier four: all nurseries, childminders, mainstream schools, colleges and other educational establishments allow full-time attendance on-site only to our priority groups: vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other pupils should not attend on-site. AP, special schools and other specialist settings will allow for full-time on-site attendance of all pupils. Remote education to be provided for all other pupils. 

The government has published additional guidance to support secondary schools moving to a rota model (tier two). You can find that here.

The government has said that local authority leaders and directors of public health, alongside national government, would be at the centre of any decision-making to move out of tier one for education settings. 

Is there additional guidance available on music, singing and performing arts? 

Yes, on 28 August 2020, the government included additional information and advice on these subjects in the latest version of its advice (see section three).

This was also updated in the government’s new guidance issued on 5 November 2020.

How can I support pupils and families who are reluctant to return to school?

NAHT has published advice on this issue, which members can access here. 

Do I need to make a report to my local authority when a child has been sent to school but should be self-isolating, for example, if their parent has tested positive or they’ve returned from a holiday where self-isolation on arrival applies?

There is no express or specific duty to report in this situation, and generally, there is no legal obligation to report crimes. However, a duty to report could arguably arise under your health and safety duties or your duty of care to staff and pupils. On that basis, reporting what has happened to the local authority would be a reasonable step to take, and you should discharge that dutyWe recommend making your governors aware that this is the approach you will take were this situation to arise. You might also want to consider communicating this to parents in an appropriate way, perhaps as a general reminder in one of your usual communication exercises, rather than a standalone item; this is because it’s hoped these situations are rare and most parents will follow the government's guidance and the law. 

If you become aware that a child should be self-isolating in accordance with the government's advice, then the child must be sent home and the parent made aware that the child cannot return until the end of the self-isolation period.  You should also review your risk assessment and consider the steps you’ll take if this situation arises, such as taking additional steps to clean the areas the child has been in and airing the rooms as a matter of priority – if the situation does arise in practice, don’t forget to reconsider the risk assessment at that point because this should be a dynamic document and additional steps may need to be taken depending on how long the child has been in school and the activities they’ve been involved with.

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HSE spot checks

Update 13 October 2020: NAHT’s understanding is that the HSE calls have now been completed and they are now in the process of conducting and organising visits to follow-up in some cases.

What will the recently announced HSE 'spot checks' with schools involve?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed that they will be carrying out ‘spot checks’ in schools in England, Wales and Scotland in the autumn term. 

For many schools, the ‘spot check’ will have started with an initial phone call intended to review the measures being taken for reopening and to minimise the spread of the virus causing covid-19. Following a review of the information from the call, if it raises concerns about a school’s approach, it may be referred for a further intervention, which could include a visit to the school.

Please note that while the initial calls were undertaken by a third-party organisation, the HSE has confirmed that all school visits will be conducted by an HSE inspector.

The information provided from the calls will be triaged and reviewed by HSE inspectors. Where there may be concerns about the assurance provided, it will be referred for a further intervention, which may include a visit to the school. All visits will be made by appointment with the school ahead of time and will endeavour to avoid attending when other reviews, such as from Ofsted, are occurring.

If a school visit is set to occur, then this should be preceded by a call from the inspector to arrange a suitable time. There should be no instances of unaccounted visits from HSE inspectors. If this occurs, please contact NAHT or HSE directly.

All inspectors should have an HSE ID; if they do not present it to the school, then a school should refuse entry.  

Inspectors will be checking that the school has carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place measures to make the school covid-secure in line with the latest government guidance. HSE has confirmed that all inspectors will be expected to follow any control measures set out by the school.

Inspectors are likely to want to talk to a union representative on their visit, ideally on a one-to-one basis. 

In the majority of cases, the most that a visit will result in is additional advice for the school on areas of improvement. However, in exceptional circumstances, it is possible that inspectors may identify more significant issues that could lead to a ‘notification of contravention.’ These notifications do invoke a charging regime, in which the school will be expected to pay a fee to cover the costs of the inspection. These notifications and charges are part of HSE’s regulatory enforcement role and apply to all sectors. 

It’s important to note that NAHT expects that this will only apply to a very small number of schools where HSE find a material breach of the law. 

How are schools selected for visit from the HSE for ‘covid spot checks’?

The HSE has confirmed that there are three circumstances in which a visit might take place: 

  1. A concern has been raised by someone (eg a member of staff, parent, etc) to the HSE about the school or its processes in relation to health and safety. This is something that is possible at any time under health and safety law, and which could occur in relation to any health and safety concerns. Although given the current situation, it may be more likely to be in relation to covid-19 health and safety concerns
  2. Concerns were raised following the ‘spot check’ phone call or the HSE (via its third-party contractor) was unable to speak to someone from the school, following three contact attempts. Note that NAHT has raised concerns from members about the timing and approach of these calls, which have, in certain cases, made it more difficult for schools to be able to respond in the required timeframe
  3. To support the ‘spot check ’process, the HSE has scheduled a number of visits to schools, not on the list for an initial call, to consider the school’s covid control measures. This is intended to check and ‘validate’ the overall process. 

HSE has confirmed that there is not a link between a school having to close and selection for a call. The HSE may well be involved if a school is required to close due to covid-19, but this is a separate process from the ‘spot checks.

What happens if I have concerns about the way that the phone call or follow-up is undertaken?

Any concerns about the process should be raised with the HSE directly.

I’m not happy about the way the school is doing things, even after a risk assessment, what else can I do?

Preparing effective risk assessments which meet the needs of all staff and pupils can prove challenging as senior leaders seek to create positive working environments in which everyone feels confident working and being in school. It is important that school leaders when consulting with staff, consider current guidance from external specialist agencies, trade unions and the DfE to ensure that the risk assessments they put in place are as robust as possible.  

Whether or not there is a duty put in place, all recommendations set out in government guidance will depend upon whether this is a legal requirement to implement something or that the information is being given for ‘advice only’. It is also important to check whether the advice being provided applies only to local authority and voluntary aided schools rather than academies and independent schools.

In circumstances where members feel that their school’s risk assessment provides insufficient reasonable adjustments to ensure their needs are met, they should continue to discuss their concerns with their employer in order to reach an agreement. If there is an issue which affects several schools in one area it may be possible for head teacher representatives to discuss the concern at a meeting such as a school’s forum.

If this is not possible and a member still feels that their issue is not being addressed by the school as the employer, then they should contact NAHT and book a telephone appointment with an adviser to discuss strategies for managing it.

It is important to recognise the challenges which covid-19 brings to all schools and that the strategies employed to manage these will be different across regions depending upon local circumstances and will also be different in different school settings. Members should continue to work with their school to find solutions before considering taking any action against the employer. In cases where discussions are exhausted members should contact NAHT to consider alternative ways of pursuing the issue.

Is there any more information on the catch-up premium?

On 25.9.20,  the DfE published the following information regarding the catch-up premium:

“In July, the government announced a one-off universal £650 million catch-up premium for the 2020 to 2021 academic year to ensure that schools have the support they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time. The coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium funding is available for all state-funded mainstream and special schools, and alternative provision.

The Education and Skills Funding Authority has published details of the provisional allocation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium and the conditions of the grant for the academic year 2020 to 2021. The first payment is worth 25% of the provisional allocation, rounded to the nearest £10, and will be paid to:

  • Local authorities on 30 September 2020
  • Academies on 8 October 2020
  • Non-maintained special schools in November 2020

Further details on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium is allocated and how it can be used can be found in the coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium guidance.”

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Remote learning

What does the Temporary Continuity Direction regarding the provision of remote education in schools mean for me?

The government has used its temporary continuity direction powers to place an obligation on schools In England to provide immediate access to remote education for pupils if they are absent because of covid-19 with effect on and from 22 October.  Schools in this context are as follows:

a) community schools, community special schools, foundation schools, foundation special schools, voluntary schools, pupil referral units, non-maintained special schools, academy schools and alternative provision academies

(b) independent schools, other than schools referred to in sub-paragraph (a), where those schools have registered pupils whose education at the school is wholly paid for out of public funds received by the school from the secretary of state, a local authority in England or a school in England.

NAHT sees this as a wholly unnecessary and hostile action for the government. We know that many of you face enormous logistical challenges to put remote learning in place, and this is not helped by the government failing to provide the right advice and support. The delays in getting laptops to disadvantaged pupils are an obvious example of this. 

We have already made our opposition clear and will continue to do so. However, given the government has now taken this legal power, it is worth taking steps to ensure that your school is as prepared as it can be and so you can demonstrate the steps you have taken to comply.    

The DfE has published an explanatory note that provides more details regarding what the Direction means for schools. The note states that schools should have regard to guidance issued by the secretary of state for education about the delivery of remote education, for example, as set out in the guidance for full opening

NAHT notes that some aspects of this guidance is highly ambiguous and open to interpretation. For example, there is no agreed understanding of what is meant by words such as ‘ambitious’ and ‘meaningful’. 

To help manage this unhelpful ambiguity, we recommend that schools have a clear, written remote/blended learning plan in place that works in their context - having evidence of a clear and coordinated approach will be helpful. We recommend sharing this in advance with pupils and families so they know what to expect. 

When making this plan, we note that there is nothing in the legislation or associated guidance that requires schools to do live lesson streaming. While it talks about the use of videos, these are not required to be live, and schools may choose to make use of existing available resources including non-online materials where appropriate. The government's advice points to materials from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) as well as to Oak Academy, and we know schools have also used materials from the BBC and subject associations and societies. Materials that are already used in lessons such as worksheets can also be considered. 

Don’t forget to explain the provision you are putting in place to your Governing Body or Trust Board and have them agree that the provision is adequate. This is because we believe it is the employer who is the “responsible body” and not the head teacher. 

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Free school meals (FSMs)

What should I do if we can’t get FSMs to pupils and families who are self-isolating? 

The DfE’s advice is that school catering suppliers may want to consider preparing a weekly hamper to make it easier to get these to families who need them. An example of such an approach can be seen here. 

The DfE has said that if families are unable to collect food parcels and unable to send a friend or neighbour, it would be a simpler process for them to call on volunteers directly.  The local authority Family Information Service should be able to help with this, and some also publish lists of local voluntary organisations. As an example, see here for information from the Tower Hamlets Council.

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First published 06 November 2020