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The full opening of schools: members' questions


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


Accountability and inspections 

What will the recently announced Ofsted 'conversations' with schools involve?

On 6 July 2020, Her Majesty's chief inspector, Amanda Spielman announced the following: "Our routine inspections will remain suspended for the autumn term, with a plan to resume in January. In the autumn term, Ofsted will be carrying out 'visits' to schools and colleges, not inspections. 

"Our visits will look at how schools and colleges are getting pupils back up to speed after so long at home. And we will help them through collaborative conversations, without passing judgement… 

"We'll use our visits to listen to school leaders' experiences and plans and to provide constructive challenge. The visits will not be graded. We'll publish the outcomes of our discussions with leaders in a short letter so that parents can understand what steps are being taken to help children back into full-time education. And we will use what we learn from our visits to report on the picture across England."

NAHT will now be seeking discussions with Ofsted to understand further what these visits will entail.

When will 'full' Ofsted inspections return?

Currently, Ofsted has indicated that it expects to return to 'full' inspections in the spring term. However, it has also said that this decision will remain 'under review'.

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. 

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 the 2019 data.

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

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PPE and face coverings 

What is the government guidance on face coverings in schools?

On 25 August, the government updated its position on face coverings in schools.

It is now making a clear distinction between primary and secondary aged pupils (we are aware of the issue this poses for middle schools and this is addressed below)

Secondary schools and schools with pupils in year 7 upwards

In simple terms, the new guidance for pupils in year 7 upwards states the following:

  • From 1 September 2020, new advice will apply to the use of face coverings by staff and pupils in some schools, and learners in further education. 
  • In areas of ‘national government intervention’, the government will require adults and pupils to wear face coverings when moving around their school, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain. 
  • Nationwide, the government is not recommending face coverings are necessary in education settings generally. 
  • However, secondary schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where they can’t safely manage social distancing (if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances)
  • The transport section of the guidance states that “in accordance with advice from PHE, from the autumn term, we recommend that local authorities advise children and young people aged 11 and older to wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport.” In practice, this means that all secondary aged pupils will be expected to wear face coverings when on dedicated transport in all areas of the country, regardless of local lockdown measures.

The new guidance for secondary schools also includes important information about the safe and effective use of face coverings in schools which members should read. This is particularly important as inadvertent misuse could run the risk of inadvertently increasing transmission, rather than reducing it.

NAHT has been clear with the government that if the scientific evidence advocates the use of face coverings in secondary schools, this is something we would support. However, when it comes to protective measures, what school leaders require is absolute clarity, not discretion. As such, we will continue to lobby the government to take a clear and unambiguous line on this.

In the meantime, NAHT’s advice is that it would be prudent for secondary schools to ask pupils and staff to wear face coverings in corridors and communal spaces 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.

From a practical perspective, 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?

Primary schools and schools with pupils up to Year 6

Update on 29 August 2020

On 28 August 2020, the government further updated its advice on face coverings. It remains the case that primary school children will not need to wear a face covering. 

However, when it comes to staff, the DfE has now adopted a more permissive approach stating: “In primary schools where social distancing is not possible in areas outside of classrooms between members of staff or visitors, for example in staffrooms, head teachers will have the discretion to decide whether to ask staff or visitors to wear, or agree to them wearing face coverings in these circumstances.” 

Similar to our advice to secondary school staff, 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. 

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.

NAHT has posed a range of questions to the DfE about face coverings following this announcement. These include:

  • What are the implications of this for staff in primary schools?
  • How does this apply in middle schools, ie will all pupils be expected to wear coverings or just older pupils?
  • How will this be implemented in special schools?
  • Will schools be provided with a supply of spare face coverings?
  • Will parents be expected to wear face coverings ar drop-off / collection?

As soon as we receive answers to these questions we will update this FAQ accordingly.

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 ( 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.

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?

The government has stated that “shielding measures will be paused from 1 August 2020, with the exception of areas where local lockdown means that shielding will continue. It is therefore appropriate for teachers and other school staff to return to their workplace setting. Accordingly, we expect that staff who need to will attend school.” This means that in the vast majority of cases, staff who were previously shielding will be able to return to school. However, leaders will want to have individual conversations with these members of staff and may consider the use of individual risk assessments. 

The guidance also states “we advise that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to school in September 2020 provided their school has implemented the system of controls outlined in this document, in line with the school’s workplace risk assessment. In all respects, the clinically extremely vulnerable should now follow the same guidance as the clinically vulnerable population, taking particular care to practise frequent, thorough handwashing and cleaning of frequently touched areas in their home and/or workspace.”

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.

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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

What happens if a member of staff goes on holiday late in the summer holiday and has to quarantine when they return?

Based on the government’s current guidelines, there could be a scenario where a member of staff goes on holiday late in the summer holidays 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 summer 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. 

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 would recommend 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.

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. 

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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 we have a positive case in a bubble, do other bubbles with siblings also need to test and isolate?

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?

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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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).

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. 

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First published 11 September 2020