Can I phase a return for pupils from 8 March?
This will not be possible for those in a primary setting, but will be possible over the first week to support testing if you are in a secondary setting.
What if I’m being asked to consider a phased return from 8 March by other trade unions?
We note that NAHT, along with other unions, called for the government to implement a phased return for pupils at the end of the current lockdown.
On 22 February, the government outlined its plan for the return of all pupils. While the government accepted that there may need to be some flexibility in secondary schools for a slightly staggered return during the week beginning 8 March, there is little scope for a phased approach beyond this in the current guidance.
On that basis we would recommend pointing out the clear government guidance in this area which is that:
“The government’s guidance states that all primary pupils should be back on the 8th March. Secondary schools have some flexibility to stagger the return over the course of that week to allow for covid testing to be carried out.”
We note that while school leaders will always have to make decisions about the operation of schools in line with their individual risk assessments, there is not scope within the government’s plan or guidance to proactively implement a more phased approach over a number of weeks.
On that basis, NAHT would advise members to work closely with their governing boards, local authorities (LAs) and trusts on this issue, rather than to take a unilateral decision.
It is important to inform the LA or trust if you receive a request from other unions to implement a phased return. You should ask the LA or trust whether they have any plans to recommend a different approach to the one government is suggesting. Clearly, if the LA or trust is recommending a specific and different approach you would want to work with them on this. However, if the LA or trust is recommending that schools follow the government guidance, you will want to communicate that to all staff. Our specialist advice team is available to provide support should you have any specific questions about this.
Can members of staff be required to take the covid-19 vaccine?
In the UK there is currently no ability under the present legislation to make covid-19 vaccination mandatory and it is our understanding that the UK government has no plans to legislate for a compulsory covid-19 vaccination programme.
There may be workplace-specific arguments to support vaccination as a precondition of work on health and safety grounds. For example, UK healthcare sector employers have a duty to ensure that healthcare workers, such as doctors and nursing staff, do not pose a risk of infection to patients and this includes an obligation to ensure such workers are vaccinated against common communicable infections. Employers should therefore anticipate a need to undertake specific risk assessments to evidence why a covid vaccination is required, despite all the other covid-secure arrangements that should already be in place. On that basis, if this is something that you are concerned about in your setting please contact your employer to make them aware and ask them what steps, if any, they are taking in relation to the need to be vaccinated (once this has been offered) to work in your setting.
Employers will of course need to take legal advice on this issue to see if they are able to require staff to take the vaccine as a pre-condition to work. They will need to explore, for example, amending contracts of employment to do this. It is a legally complex area and something that the employer will need to lead on with input from their legal teams. It is worth noting that employers may take a different approach to special and alternative provision settings than to mainstream settings. This could be based on a legal analysis that those settings have more high-risk individuals attending, and therefore the need to have vaccinated staff is greater than in mainstream schools and the legal basis for the requirement to be vaccinated is either a reasonable management instruction in this case or circumstances where the grounds to make a contractual change to require this are stronger.
Data protection issues will also need to be considered. Were an employer to require evidence of vaccination this would give rise to significant data protection issues. This means that employers would have to carefully consider why they need evidence of vaccination and whether it is appropriate to enable schools in their area to operate. Doing so will require a data protection impact assessment, which must consider not only the reasons for requiring the data but also issues like how it will be held securely, who will have access and whether it is appropriate to hold more than a simple 'yes' or 'no'. This, therefore, adds another layer of complication in this already legally complex area.
In summary, this issue is something that will need to be considered by the employer; all NAHT members can do in relation to this issue is to raise the need for this with their employer and ask them to consider the approach they will take once vaccines are more widely available.
Face masks and schools from 8 March
After those children who have been learning remotely return to school on 8 March, the government’s stated expectation is that primary school children will not be wearing face masks, but the large majority of secondary pupils will be. However, the government guidance on this is equivocal and, as a result, schools might face issues connected to this.
NAHT has produced this guidance outlining answers to questions school leaders may face over the next few days.
Can we arrange local school trips?
We have been in contact with the Department for Education and this isn’t something that should be happening at the moment.
NAHT understands that members are being contacted by local authorities requesting that they make their schools available for use as polling stations during forthcoming elections. This is despite the government encouraging local authorities to find alternative venues for elections to take place in order to minimise the amount of disruption being caused to schools. The following advice sets out the steps that head teachers can take to challenge such decisions.
Who has the power to decide upon whether a school or academy may be used as a polling station?
As maintained schools, academies and free schools are publicly funded, local authorities have the power to designate these buildings in their areas for use as polling stations.
Can head teachers appeal against a decision by the local authority to use their school as a polling station?
Head teachers should ensure that they have the support of their governing body in appealing against their local authority’s intention to use their school as a polling station. They should point out that this will cause unreasonable disruption to the school and such a decision will be against current advice from the DfE and Cabinet Office, which states that local authorities should seek to minimise the disruption caused to schools and the impact upon the education of pupils following lockdown. In cases where a local authority declines a request, head teachers are under a duty to comply with it on behalf of the governing board of their school.
Will many schools be required to act as polling stations in 2021?
The Government is making an additional £92million funding available to councils in order to secure alternative venues to be used as polling stations in forthcoming elections.
Will there be any additional funding available to support schools that are identified as polling stations?
Where councils are unable to secure alternative provision and intend to use school premises for forthcoming elections then head teachers will be able to apply for the above funding in order to cover cleaning costs and any other additional measures which have to be taken to minimise disruption to their school.
What are the next steps once head teachers have confirmation that their school will be used as a polling station?
Head teachers should carry out a risk assessment that will identify whether sufficient reasonable adjustments can be made, to ensure that the school remains compliant with the standards set out in the governing board’s health and safety policy if it remains open on polling day. Reasonable adjustments will include a consideration of the size of the school building, the number of entry and exit points and the number of support staff available to sanitise equipment being made available in rooms that will be used as a polling station.
Where schools are unable to make sufficient reasonable adjustments to ensure that the health and safety policy is complied with through a risk assessment, then head teachers will have to consider whether it will be necessary to close their school either partially or completely. Head teachers will need to inform the local authority of this decision on behalf of the governing board.
Where it is deemed necessary to partially or fully close the school, governors, staff and parents must be notified as soon as possible. The school may be closed for either half a day or a full day. The government’s recommendation is that closure of schools due to these circumstances should be minimised as much as possible, and where possible should be for no longer than one day.
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NAHT remains concerned about the government’s current approach to funding in the early years.
On 18 January 2021, we emailed members directly to provide an update on the current situation. You can read that here.
We will continue to address the issue of funding in the early years with government.
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Guidance on the use of section 44 can be found here. This guidance also contains a link to an in-depth NAHT paper on the use of section 44 by individual members who may want to consider whether this is appropriate in their case.
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Is NAHT calling for school staff to be prioritised for vaccination?
Yes, we believe that after the first phase of vaccinations for the most vulnerable in society has been rolled out, education staff should be considered as a priority for vaccination (particularly those working in specialist provision and early years). This reflects not just the crucial role they play, but also the unique working environment school staff are operating in.
However, we note that in an announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on 26 February 2021, the next group to get priority will be those aged 40-49, rather than prioritising based on occupation.
This means that after phase 1 of the vaccination programme (intended to cover all those aged 50+ and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable) then the phase 2 priority will be given in the following order:
- All those aged 40-49
- All those aged 30-39
- All those aged 18-29.
Despite this announcement, we will continue to call for the priority of all school staff for the reasons set out above.
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Please see our detailed guidance on risk assessments and a suggested template letter for members to request further information from their employers to assist in their risk assessment here. It will be particularly important to update your risk assessments in relation to full reopening, and to remain vigilant in terms of updating these documents going forwards to take into account any change in the national picture, local picture or new information brought to your attention as the full reopening beds in.
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) – what are my obligations?
The UK employers' duty to report injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences in the workplace applies in relation to covid-19. Recent guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which can be found here, states that not all cases concerning covid-19 need to be reported under RIDDOR, which can be found here.
In essence, the requirement to report does not arise simply by virtue of an instance taking place on work premises or because someone had been 'at work' in the period prior to any potential exposure to or diagnosis of covid-19. There must be a nexus or likely link between the dangerous occurrence, disease or death and the work activity or environment that was in existence at the time. This quite complicated picture of the application of the guidance has led to some uncertainty as to when and if a report under RIDDOR is required.
HSE’s guidance states that a RIDDOR report is only required in the following circumstances:
- A dangerous occurrence occurs when an accident or incident at work has, or could have, led to the release or escape of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
- A case of disease occurs when a worker is diagnosed as having covid-19 and the diagnosis is attributed to occupational exposure to coronavirus.
- A work-related death due to a biological agent occurs when a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus
It would be wrong to assume that all cases of covid-19 in a workplace context do not need to be reported to the HSE or other relevant regulators. Equally, it would be an over-simplification to adopt the position that all cases of covid-19 among workers must be reported under RIDDOR.
As is often the case in relation to health and safety reporting, there is likely to be a finely balanced judgement as to whether a case of covid-19 is reportable, not least because the consequences of making a mistake could be serious. Failure to report a case that meets the legal threshold may constitute a criminal offence which carries the potential for an unlimited fine. Conversely, reporting when there is no legal obligation to do so could give rise to unnecessary regulatory scrutiny or investigation.
Who has to make the report?
The duty to notify and report rests with the ‘responsible person’ under the terms of the legislation. This means that the legal responsibility and thus accountability for health and safety lies with the employer – but there are exceptions to this (please see further below). While this seems straightforward, who the employer is depends on the type of school.
England and Wales
The local authority
Community special schools
Voluntary controlled schools
Maintained nursery schools
Pupil referral units
The governing body
Foundation special schools
Voluntary aided schools
The governing body or proprietor
Academies and free schools
The Academy Trust
In addition to this, some school employers may have centrally coordinated reporting procedures. In others, reporting requirements may be delegated to the school management team. The health and safety policy should set out the responsibilities and arrangements for reporting in each school.
As a first step, we recommend ensuring that you’re clear whether or not the obligation to report has been delegated to you as part of the management team or sits with the employer. If it sits with the employer, then you will only be responsible for notifying them of issues and it will be for them to decide whether or not the reporting obligation has been triggered.
A finely balanced decision
If you find that you are responsible for reporting and find yourself in doubt about whether a report is required, it may be useful to contact the HSE helpline for further guidance. It is important to remember that a report may not necessarily lead to any action being taken by HSE, especially during the current circumstances, where the spread of the virus is prevalent and there remains uncertainty as to whether workplace exposure is likely to be the cause of the contraction of the virus. In addition, we would recommend writing to your chair of governors to confirm that you intend to report under RIDDOR and that you will let the employer know this is happening (rather than seek permission), as where a RIDDOR is required, it must be made without delay using the appropriate online form available on HSE’s website.
If you determine that a covid-19 case is not reportable under RIDDOR, it is advised that you clearly document your decision and the rationale for it.
Review of risk assessments
It is worth noting that a reportable incident may indicate that your control measures are ineffective and so you should review your covid-19 risk assessment to check if the control measures you have in place remain effective. Even if the control measures are effective, you might consider if there are compliance issues that have caused the incident and if you need to do anything to improve compliance.
How often should children wash their hands?
Department for Education (DfE) and Public Health England (PHE) 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.
What should we do about heating and ventilation during the pandemic?
The HSE 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.
Clearly, when in winter/early spring or late autumn some of the steps you may have taken to increase appropriate ventilation, such as opening windows, become 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. While 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 in the colder months. 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 currently 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 the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations, 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.
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.
What is the government's guidance on face coverings in schools?
6 April update: the Department for Education has released updated guidance which confirms that the use of face coverings will continue to be recommended in secondary school and college classrooms until 17 May at the earliest, following an ongoing review of the evidence and data. At that point, the next stage of easements, including increased social contact indoors, will be confirmed following a review of the latest data on infection and vaccination rates. All further changes will be confirmed with one week’s notice and all other safety measures will remain in place, including regular asymptomatic testing, smaller group bubbles, increased hygiene, ventilation, and social distancing where possible. When the guidance changes and it no longer recommends the wearing of face coverings, it will be up to schools to consider, whether they would like to continue to encourage people to wear face coverings (noting that this could not be compulsory) following a risk assessment suggesting that it would be a good ongoing safety measure or to be flexible and allow those that wish to wear them to continue to do so. As you know this area is fraught with difficulty from a school perspective, as many parents and indeed staff, have different views about wearing face coverings and as such whichever approach you take, we would recommend discussing this in advance with the governors so they are aware of the approach that you’re taking and discussing this with your local authority or trust to understand if there is an overriding local approach being taken that you can piggyback on. Risk assessment documentation for individuals and the school should be revised accordingly to confirm the approach adopted with respect to the wearing of face coverings.
For guidance on challenging issues relating to the wearing of face coverings from 8 March onwards, please see our guidance outlining answers to questions school leaders may face as schools fully reopen.
The government is recommending that the use of face coverings in secondary schools be extended to all indoor environments, “including classrooms”, for a “limited period” until 17 May at the earliest, unless social distancing can be maintained.
This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE lessons.
In primary schools, the government now recommends that face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas). Children in primary school do not need to wear a face covering. This measure is also in place until Easter and will be kept under review, and guidance updated after this to reflect the relevant position.
Consideration should be given to children who are exempt from wearing face coverings due to unique needs – this will need to be 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 – for example in the classroom in a primary setting where this is not mandatory – 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.
Face coverings in special schools/alternative provision
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: “Face visors or shields should not be worn as an alternative to face coverings. They may protect against droplet spread in specific circumstances but are unlikely to be effective in reducing aerosol transmission when used without an additional face covering. They should only be used after carrying out a risk assessment for the specific situation and should always be cleaned appropriately.”
If secondary students are outside at break and lunchtime, do they have to wear face coverings?
The DfE has confirmed that they do not. The DfE has confirmed that the guidance relates only to indoor communal areas.
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. 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.
What is the role of HSE from 8 March onwards?
HSE will continue to investigate concerns and incidents reported to them as schools return, although it should be noted that some of the new measures being introduced (eg asymptomatic testing of staff and pupils, and the wider use of face coverings) are not matters enforced by HSE.
HSE will not be conducting further proactive ‘spot checks’ at this time.
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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.
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.
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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 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 wraparound care as they are in school.
Obviously, if it is possible, then it would be advisable to keep the groups the same.
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.
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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.
Please note this was written prior to the announcement of the March full opening, so it is likely it will be updated further in due course.
Does NAHT have any advice on cover and supply teaching during covid-19?
During these unprecedented times 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 NASUWT and 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 options do you have available to you?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Proactively plan for what actions schools will take if individual members of staff or groups of staff are forced to self-isolate at short notice.
- 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.
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.
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:
- Using remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings
- Only absolutely necessary participants should physically attend meetings and should maintain social distancing (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable)
- Avoiding transmission during meetings; for example, avoiding sharing pens, documents and other objects
- Providing hand sanitiser in meeting rooms
- Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible
- 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.
Can schools still carry out lesson observations?
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 while transmission of the virus remain high. If you do decide to, this should be subject to a thorough risk assessment.
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What is NAHT’s position on the lateral flow testing in schools?
NAHT is broadly supportive of the concept of schools having access to lateral flow tests for asymptomatic screening, and recognises the positive impact such tests could have. However, we had significant concerns about lateral flow tests being used as an alternative to isolation where positive cases are confirmed in bubbles. We are therefore pleased to see that the government has paused these tests for that particular purpose.
What should an educational or children’s social care setting do in the exceptional circumstance that they have good reason to question a self-isolation notification that will have a major impact on the running of the setting?
In the exceptional circumstance that an educational setting or individual member of staff has received a self-isolation notification from NHS Test and Trace (via phone or text) that will have a major impact on the running of the setting, and they have good reason to believe it does not take account of the full range of protective measures in place within their setting, they may seek further advice from PHE advice service by calling the DfE helpline and pressing 1. Where necessary, the advice service will escalate the issue to the local Health Protection Team.
Please note that the reference to notifications is with regards to Test and Trace notifications to isolate issued through email, text or phone rather than the NHS App.
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?
Not necessarily. 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, they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace, or they have tested positive from a lateral flow device (LFD) test as part of a community or worker programme.
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.
What should I do when I'm asked to be on-call all weekend to field calls from NHS Test and Trace, Public Health England, etc, regarding positive covid-19 cases?
We know that school leaders are being asked to be on-call seven days a week to respond to reports of positive covid-19 cases. Given that many of our members work in small schools with equally small leadership teams, this is placing an enormous burden on them. Being on-call seven days a week is not sustainable, and we are deeply concerned about the impact this has on school leaders' well-being. We are making representations to both the DfE and PHE on this issue, particularly in relation to the school holidays.
Equally, school leaders want to do everything in their power to keep their schools and communities as safe as possible, as they have already repeatedly shown throughout the pandemic. They also know that only receiving such vital information first thing on a Monday morning could put them in an impossible situation and actually increase the stress they are under.
With that in mind, and given the difficult nature of this situation, it is essential that local authorities and local health protection teams work with school leaders to identify sustainable solutions.
One approach to consider
Schools and school leaders set up an autoreply on their emails over the weekend. This auto-reply should state that school email addresses are not routinely checked throughout a Saturday and Sunday and that if the person is contacting them to report a confirmed case of covid-19, then they should phone the school on a dedicated out-of-hours phone number. In reality, this is likely to be a school mobile (we recommend that school leaders should not provide their personal mobile number). This would mean that school leaders do not have to keep checking their emails throughout the weekend and would know that a phone call to that number means there is a confirmed case that they need to be made aware of. If that situation does occur, and school leaders are told that pupils and staff need to self-isolate, they could simply send a pre-prepared text or email template through their usual communication system. This would simply inform parents or staff that they need to remain at home next week due to a reported case and that more information will follow on Monday morning.
Can I discuss the possibility of payment for duties I’m undertaking on a temporary basis with my governors?
If you are a head teacher working under the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2020 (STPCD) you could explore the option of a ‘temporary payment’. This appears to be the only option available to provide any additional payment for members who work under the STPCD provisions.
The STPCD outlines that the only additional payment that can be paid to a head teacher is a ‘temporary payment’. A temporary payment can be awarded for clearly temporary responsibilities or duties that are in addition to the post for which the head’s salary (pay range) has been determined. This means it’s awarded for clearly time-bound responsibilities or duties only.
This is contained in section two, part two, paragraph 10 of the STPCD 2020, which states the following:
“10.1. Subject to paragraphs 10.2 to 10.4, the relevant body may determine that payments be made to a headteacher for clearly temporary responsibilities or duties that are in addition to the post for which their salary has been determined. In each case the relevant body must not have previously taken such reason or circumstance into account when determining the headteacher’s pay range.”
It’s unlikely that a ‘relevant body’ (ie governors) would have considered covid-19, and also unlikely that the “clearly temporary responsibilities” of for example, ‘NHS Test and Trace’ would have been legislated for in determining the head teacher’s salary. On that basis, we recommend that head teacher members raise with their governors' consideration of a temporary payment. This request may not be agreed to by the ‘relevant body’ but it should be considered in good faith.
The STPCD does not provide for other members such as deputy heads or assistant heads to receive temporary payments. Furthermore, the provisions of the STPCD (paragraph 26) on ‘additional payments’ for all teachers is very prescriptive and unlikely to apply in this scenario. School business leaders impacted by this situation (particularly those who are term-time only) may wish to explore what arrangements are proposed by the school if they are requested to work beyond their contractual hours.
What happens if I do not have enough staff to keep my school open?
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.
I am either clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable myself, and I am concerned about attending school. What should I do?
At the moment the guidance is clear that clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) staff are advised not to attend the workplace even if they have been vaccinated. Staff who are CEV will previously have received a letter from the NHS or their GP telling them this (no new letter is required), It is very hard for us to give blanket advice in relation to clinically vulnerable staff as the general guidance is that this group should attend the workplace from 8 March onwards (while in school they must follow the system of controls to minimise the risks of transmission), given that every person will have a unique situation. If you find yourself in that position, we recommend you contact our advice team on 0300 30 30 333 (and select option one).
If we are under restrictions that means clinically extremely vulnerable staff are advised not to attend but a member of staff who is clinically extremely vulnerable tells me that they still want to come into school, can they?
The short answer to this question is that they potentially can, and the DfE has confirmed that to us, stating that the guidance for CEV people is only ‘advisory’. However, this is a very complex and sensitive area where you will need to take great care. Schools have a legal obligation to protect their employees and others, including children, from harm, and they should continue to assess health and safety risks and consider how to meet equalities duties in the usual way.
The law firm Winckworth Sherwood has produced what we think is very sensible and useful guidance on this issue, which you can access here.
I have a member of staff who was previously told to shield but is unsure if they should be shielding now. What should I do?
We recommend that the member of staff speaks with their GP or medical specialist urgently to clarify this. However, until it is clearly established that they shouldn’t be shielding we recommend taking a cautious approach and not having the member of staff attend the workplace.
What does this mean for staff who are pregnant?
The DfE has told us the following:
“Pregnant women are in the ‘clinically vulnerable’ category. Clinically vulnerable staff can continue to attend school. While in school, they should follow the sector-specific measures in guidance to minimise the risks of transmission. This includes taking particular care to observe good hand and respiratory hygiene, minimising contact and maintaining social distancing in line with the provisions set out in section six of the ‘prevention’ section of the guidance. This provides that ideally, adults should maintain a two-metre distance from others, and where this is not possible, avoid close face-to-face contact and minimise time spent within one metre of others. While the risk of transmission between young children and adults is likely to be low, adults should continue to take care to socially distance from other adults including older children and adolescents.”
I am pregnant and have been advised that I should be physically back in school from the week commencing 8 March 2021. Are you able to confirm if arrangements are different for women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant and/or have underlying health conditions?
A more precautionary approach is recommended for women who are 28 weeks pregnant (or beyond) or have an underlying health condition. Although they are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health, they have an increased risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract covid-19.
For women who are less than 28 weeks pregnant with no underlying health conditions, the following is advised:
- A workplace risk assessment should be undertaken for you as a priority
- The risk assessment should advise on whether it is safe for you to continue working within the school
- Any risks that are identified need to be either removed or managed
- The school should ensure you are able to adhere to any active national guidance on social distancing
- If it’s not possible to remove or safely manage identified risks, suitable alternative work in the school or alternative working arrangements (including working from home) need to be considered
- Where it is not possible to put alternative arrangements in place, the government's guidance recommends that you are suspended on normal pay.
A more precautionary approach is necessary for women who are 28 weeks pregnant (or beyond), or pregnant and have an underlying health condition that puts them at a greater risk of severe illness from covid-19 at any gestation. The following is advised:
- The school should ensure you are able to adhere to any active national guidance on social distancing and/or advice for pregnant women considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (this group may previously have been advised to shield)
- Consideration should be given towards requiring you to work flexibly from home in a different capacity
- Your school should consider both how to redeploy you and how to maximise the potential for homeworking, wherever possible
- Where adjustments to your work environment and role are not possible and alternative work cannot be found, you should be suspended on paid leave.
I have been approached by a pregnant member of staff who says that she should not be in school once she is 28 weeks pregnant. Is this the case? What should my approach be?
If you have a member of staff who is 28 weeks pregnant (or beyond) or they have an underlying health condition, it is important that you adopt a more precautionary approach as recommended in government guidance. Although they are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health, they have an increased risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract covid-19.
It is advised that you consider the following steps:
- Ensure that an individual risk assessment is in place for the member of staff and that regular reviews have been scheduled
- Discuss the situation with the member of staff and inform them that you are referring them to Occupational Health
- Read the government guidance and note the more precautionary approach advised for a member of staff who is 28 weeks pregnant or who is pregnant with an underlying health condition
- Review the working options available for the member of staff in the context of the government guidance
- Liaise with your local authority/trust to advise on your current and planned actions in respect to the member of staff
- Seek support from your HR provider on any documentation that may be required to confirm the position with the member of staff
- Continue to liaise with the member of staff to manage their work and any support arrangements.
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.
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 duty. We 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.
What are my responsibilities when it comes to staff members needing to self-isolate?
The government has 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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What is NAHT’s position on Ofsted inspections?
NAHT believes that there should be no return to routine Ofsted inspections this academic year (2020/21). We are lobbying DfE and Ofsted on that basis.
Has NAHT developed advice on Ofsted visits in 2020/21?
Yes, a separate advice document is available here.
What is NAHT’s position on SATs?
NAHT believes all primary statutory assessments should be cancelled for 2020/21 and has been lobbying the government on that basis.
On 3 December 2020, the government announced that:
- The multiplication tables check will be non-statutory, so it does not have to be administered by schools in 2021.
- The grammar, punctuation and spelling test at key stage two will also be non-statutory, so it does not have to be administered in 2021.
- Key stage one assessment in reading, writing and maths will be by teacher assessment only. The tests used to inform teacher assessment at key stage one will be non-statutory, and no new key stage one tests will be made available in 2021.
- There will be no teacher assessment of science in 2021 at either key stage one or key stage two.
- Key stage one phonics and the autumn term year two additional phonics check will go ahead. However, we have continued to press the government regarding the year two check. As a result, the guidance has been updated to give more clarity on the use of the data. It now states: “Data from the autumn check will not be used in Analyse School Performance, performance tables or the Inspection Data Summary Report (IDSR). LAs will not use this data for accountability purposes.”
- Key stage two SATs in reading and maths and teacher assessment of writing will go ahead in 2021. The administration of these will be made more flexible with an extended timetable variation window.
The statutory guidance for key stage one and key stage two has been updated to reflect these announcements.
While these measures do not go as far as we would like, they represent significant progress from where we were in September when the government’s message was all statutory assessment, along with the publication of performance data, would go ahead as usual.
NAHT will continue to represent members’ views to the government on the issue of primary statutory assessment and seek further talks. We have already raised concerns about the potential use of SATs data in the IDSR and ASP, and are seeking urgent talks on this issue. It is NAHT’s view that school to school comparisons and a simplistic use of national averages in 2020/21 could be highly misleading. As such, we are seeking reassurances from both the DfE and Ofsted on how this data will be presented and used.
What is NAHT’s view on secondary exams and assessments in 2021?
NAHT has been fully engaged in the discussions with the government and Ofqual over recent months, constantly pressing the views of our secondary members with officials and ministers. On 3 December, the government announced a range of measures regarding exams and assessments in 2021:
The grading of qualifications in 2021 will match the generosity of the grading in 2020, although some of the inconsistency between subjects will be evened out
The DfE will set up an expert group to advise the government on the issue of differential learning and make proposals to mitigate its impact
- Contingency arrangements will be put in place for potential disruption to students’ exams and assessments:
- The current process of special considerations will be scaled up to allow students to be awarded a grade as long as they have completed at least 25% of their assessments in a subject
- There will be contingency papers (one paper per subject) for students who miss all of their exams in a subject in the main series. This contingency series is likely to start in the week commencing 28 June 2021
- The DfE will provide support to enable shielding and extremely clinically vulnerable students to take their exams. This may be by using an alternative venue or, in a very small number of cases, using home invigilation
- For the predicted small number of students who miss all opportunities to complete their assessments in a subject, their grade will be awarded through a process of validated teacher assessment. More details of this will be provided in the new year, but this is the last resort contingency.
- Adaptations will be made to assessments, and the awarding organisations are currently determining the details. There may be limitations of what is possible or appropriate for each subject, but the aim is that at least one of the below adaptations will apply in each subject. These adaptations are expected to be published by the end of January 2021, and there are two elements:
- Provision of support materials (for example, formula sheets) to give students more confidence and reduce the amount of information they need to memorise
- Advance notice of exam content.
- We also expect the Exam Support Service set up this year to be scaled up and run through next summer providing advice, guidance and support.
NAHT has welcomed the fact that the government has finally made and announced their decisions in terms of the overall approach but has been clear that they haven’t gone as far as we have recommended. NAHT will continue pushing on elements which we feel need further development and draw the government’s attention to any new issues as they arise. In particular, we will continue our engagement on the need to recognise the differential learning experience of students. Although some of the measures announced will help students, more is needed.
In addition to this, on 25 February 2021, the government announced the set of arrangements that it expects schools and colleges to follow when awarding students GCSE, A Level and equivalent grades for 2021.
NAHT believes that these plans appear to chart a path that avoids the awful chaos of last year. This set of decisions is, however, only the starting point; it is now down to the awarding bodies to provide the detail which schools and colleges need to implement the process.
Paul Whiteman has provided the following statement in relation to this:
“We are pleased to see that students will be assessed on what they have learned and that schools and colleges will be able to use a range of evidence to arrive at a grade that fairly reflects what a student knows, understands and can do in a subject.
“Every grade submitted by a school or college, in each subject for every student, will be the result of the collaborative efforts of teachers, heads of department and senior leaders, supported by the awarding bodies and subject to robust quality assurance processes. That will mean that the grades awarded will command the confidence of everyone involved, from students themselves to universities and employers.
“NAHT remains concerned about the change in the dates of results days. Although earlier results for students seeking to start university could be beneficial, cramming GCSE results into the same week will place unnecessary pressure on to the system.”
What will happen about performance data for 2020/21?
On 3 December 2020, the government announced the following:
- There will be no school-level data from tests, exams and assessments published on performance tables for key stage two, key stage four or key stage five.
- Instead, school-level information will be published on destinations data for key stage four and key stage five, curriculum choices at key stage four and key stage five, and attendance for primary and secondary schools. The attendance data will be supported with contextual information and caveats, and the Department for Education (DfE) has committed to working with us on the details of this.
- The DfE will publish some national and regional statistics for key stages two, four and five.
- School-level data will be provided in ASP and IDSR. Following representations from NAHT, the DfE has committed to working with us on the caveats, training and presentation of this data, recognising that it will not be comparable to previous or future years and that school-to-school comparison would be highly problematic.
The DfE has published an accountability update to clarify the way school and college accountability will operate for the 2020 to 2021 academic year.
What will happen about performance data for 2019/20?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Reimbursement scheme and exceptions cost funding
What will the government's reimbursement scheme for schools cover?
The government has published updated guidance (24 June 2020) on the scheme here.
On 27 November 2020 the government announced a new scheme to support schools with the costs of supply. At the time of writing, we do not have many details, but we do know:
- This fund is in addition to the funding already allocated for schools next year.
- It will be backdated to 1 November.
- Schools will first need to use any existing financial reserves. They will be eligible for this additional funding once they have used these down to a level at 4% of the annual income.
- Mainstream schools and colleges must be experiencing a short-term teacher absence rate at or above 20%, and/or a lower long-term teacher absence rate at or above 10% – costs can only be claimed when incurred above this rate.
- Special schools and alternative provision schools must be experiencing a short-term teacher absence rate at or above 15%, and/or a lower long-term teacher absence rate at or above 10%, to be eligible – costs can only be claimed when incurred above this rate.
Can schools claim for exceptional costs associated with extending the opening of schools?
No. Both the previous scheme and the new scheme announced in November do not cover these costs. 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."
Will the government clawback money from schools’ budgets to pay for the Edenred voucher scheme?
No. The DfE has told us: The costs of the National Voucher Scheme were met centrally by the government. As such, the government will not be attempting to recoup the costs of providing these vouchers to schools.
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What is NAHT’s advice if other unions provide me with a checklist for risk assessments?
A number of teaching and support staff unions have previously published checklists for their members. This may take place again.
We expect that as with previous versions, there will be a number of helpful points raised that schools will consider as part of their ongoing, dynamic risk assessments if they haven’t already done so.
We need to point out that the checklist items, including the 15% figure quoted, are not binding on schools or school leaders. The checklist represents advice to members of the unions listed. It is not guidance that schools are obliged to follow.
While schools should continue to engage with all their staff fully, and union representatives when it comes to risk assessments, they are not under any obligation to demonstrate they have met all the items outlined in a particular checklist provided to them. Your responsibilities are to discharge your duties appropriately, and you can find NAHT’s advice to leaders here.
Ultimately, any checklist produced is for the members of those unions to use, and individual members of staff will make their decisions about what they choose to do as a result of that. We will continue to support and advise our members based on the individual circumstances they face in their school.
We have produced additional health and safety guidance that can be found here.
Can union-appointed health and safety representatives inspect the school and if so what notice should they give?
Union-appointed health and safety representatives can inspect the workplace. Normally, they have to give reasonable notice in writing when they intend to carry out a formal inspection of the workplace and have not inspected it in the previous three months. If there is a substantial change in conditions of work or HSE publishes new information on hazards, the representatives are entitled to carry out inspections before three months have elapsed, or if it is by agreement.
However, the requirement for reasonable notice doesn’t apply where there has been an incidence of a notifiable disease such as covid. In this situation, health and safety representatives also have the right to carry out inspections and only need to give notice where it is reasonably practicable to do so. This means that the usual notice requirements don’t apply. Given this, we would expect that any refusal to allow an inspection should only be done for good reason as it’s likely that the person refusing to allow the inspection would need to be able to justify this. For example, it may not be appropriate for the representative to carry out an inspection when pupils are on-site and covid control systems are in operation or, for example, after the premises have been thoroughly cleaned ready for the next day.
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Am I able to close early on a Friday afternoon for deep cleaning/whole-school PPA?
NAHT has developed an advice document on 'reducing the school week', which you can read here.
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How should I manage complaints about remote learning?
1) Emphasise the positive
In most cases, the complainants will be very much in the minority. Use any opportunity available to publicise the fact that you have received much in the way of thanks and support for the efforts staff are making to produce effective work for children learning at home.
Make a point of highlighting the excellent work your staff are doing in these challenging circumstances.
2) Proactively explain how your work fits with government guidelines
The DfE’s guidance states remote education should be 'equivalent to the core teaching pupils would receive in school and will include both recorded or live directed teaching time'. And, as a minimum, the amount of remote education provided should be for key stage one: three hours a day on average across the cohort (less for younger children), key stage two: four hours a day; and key stages three and four: five hours a day.
Schools are required to 'have regard' to this guidance. This means that schools must take into account the guidance and the ‘expectations’ it sets in deciding what remote education to provide.
However, there is no strict legal obligation as to the quantity or quality of remote education to be provided.
There is no expectation that you must provide live lessons and if you are challenged on this you may wish to highlight this recent article from Ofsted that states 'live lessons aren’t always best'.
A statement on your website should set out your remote provision offer, and you can use this to outline how you are meeting government guidelines.
Each school is different and you will need to develop an offer that works for your context and unique set of circumstances.
Where short-term disruptions such as staff illness make it harder to deliver remote learning as normal, it is important to explain this situation to parents so they understand the reason for any reduction in provision.
3) Dealing with complaint campaigns
The DfE’s guidance on complaints procedures makes mention of dealing with complaint campaigns:
Occasionally, you may become the focus of a campaign and receive large volumes of complaints:
- all based on the same subject
- from complainants unconnected with the school.
We recommend you include a separate procedure in your complaints policy to handle complaints of this nature. This could include:
- sending a template response to all complainants (referring to the school’s remote learning policy)
- publishing a single response on the school’s website.
In accordance with the duty on schools to publish their complaints procedures online under the School Information (England) Regulations 2008, any alternative process must be included in the complaints procedure published on the school’s website.
You can continue to signpost complainants to us if they’re dissatisfied with your response.
If your complaints policy makes reference to this, it might be appropriate to place something positive on your website as an answer to the campaigners, suggesting that any individuals who are still not satisfied and wish to raise their own concerns should do so via a specific email address.
4) Dealing with social media postings
There is evidence of vituperative and false comments being made on social media, often personal and upsetting in nature around this issue. You can gain very good advice about the possibility of managing these posts from Professionals Online Safety Helpline, the contact details for which are here.
5) Use your complaints procedure
In many instances, complaints about remote learning will be resolved through an initial conversation with the class teacher. As with any complaint, it is important to try and keep an open mind about the issue being raised and look for straightforward ways to resolve the matter wherever possible. Where this is not the case, it may be necessary to escalate the complaint through your usual procedure. It is extremely important that you are able to demonstrate that you have followed the school’s existing procedure.
You have followed the DfE guidance and developed a policy to explain your school’s approach to remote learning; your staff are working very hard to ensure an appropriate offer of work, while attending to the needs of those children still in school; the governors have been briefed on your approach and have been supportive. If a few people are still discontent with the work being sent home then let them use the formal stages of the complaints procedure, it is their right to do so but you should feel confident that your decisions and actions will, ultimately, be vindicated.
Which pupils are eligible for free mobile data increases or 4G wireless routers?
The DfE's mobile data uplifts service is for disadvantaged children who rely on mobile data to get online. It’s not intended to ‘top up’ where broadband is insufficient to meet a family’s needs, although they do understand that this is a common problem.
Schools, trusts and local authorities can request this support for children and young people in years 3 to 11 who meet all 3 of these criteria:
- do not have fixed broadband at home
- cannot afford additional data for their devices
- are experiencing disruption to their face-to-face education.
The DfE’s position is that schools are best placed to identify children who need this support. You can read the guidance and find out how to order here.
Where broadband is not meeting a family’s needs, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and (DCMS) has recommended the Ofcom advice below, as there are protections in place and often an internet service provider can help address issues of poor performance. The relevant webpages with advice are on improving broadband speed and customer rights and switching.
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What will happen for FSMs from 8 March?
The guidance makes it clear that you should also continue to provide free school meal support to pupils who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals and who are learning at home during term time
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Any views, opinions and guidance provided represent the views of the NAHT and are for information purposes only. The information provided does not purport to be legal and/or professional advice or a definitive interpretation of any law for the purposes of specific individual circumstances.