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NAHT(NI) Coronavirus - Update 1 April 2020

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During this time of unprecedented crisis, we wish to applaud school leaders for their vital work in caring for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, and in their commitment to distance learning. These are challenging times and we know members want to do what is best to ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed and other essential services keep functioning, whilst keeping staff and pupils safe.

Good professional relationships and leadership collegiality enable us all to address these challenges and to work together with resilience in the face of the pandemic. NAHT(NI) continues to work proactively with government to advocate on behalf of all members in order to foster effective system change in this period of rapid workforce developments.

Surge  / Covid-19

While demand at the moment is low, an expected surge in Covid-19 cases means that DE and EA anticipate an increase in key worker children requiring care in the coming weeks.  Consequently, DE/EA are seeking more schools to provide care. NAHT(NI) continue to communicate the concerns of members to DE and EA. 

As indicated in our previous guidance, school leaders must base their decision on opening or closing on safety.  

HSCNI

DE and EA acknowledge the emerging wide range of questions in relation to the operational plan for clustering.  DE and EA also accept that a public health protocol is required for the operational plan for clustering to be implemented.  We understand DE and EA are writing this plan this evening. 

Information from other jurisdictions

We understand that DE and EA accept that certain measures need to be in place in relation to school based care. They assure us they are trying to help Principals.

NAHT(NI) are aware that DE and EA are in possession of and are considering professional health advice currently being adopted by Scotland, Wales and ROI. 

Calls to schools by EA link officers

From tomorrow (Thursday 2 April) Schools that have been unable to open will be contacted by an EA link officer to determine the reason for closure.  The link officer will also ask the Principal what they would require to enable them to open in the near future. We ask our members to think very carefully on what requirements they would need in order to open safely. 

Principals may also be asked to contact their staff to enquire about their availability to attend school.  Where availability of staff may be an issue, EA would intend to provide additional staffing. 

EA intend to provide additional staff in order of priority as follows:

  • Teachers and non-teaching staff 
  • EA employees (in localities)
  • Teachers on NISTR (system has now been amended to enable bookings during holiday and weekend periods)
  • ETI staff and volunteers who are retired plus other vetted volunteers 
  • PGCE and final year students. 

 

DE and EA consider that all current staff that are available should expect to be deployed. 

Vulnerable children

Please note, schools need to be mindful of the number of staff that may be required to ensure the safety of some of our most vulnerable children, in particular those with SEN in mainstream schools. Different protocols will need to be in place and additional staff may be likely. 

Easter/weekend opening

DE and EA are planning that staff will continue to be available during Easter and weekends.  EA will be asking Principals to contact their staff to check their availability to volunteer out of their normal contracted hours.  This is voluntary and staff cannot be compelled to work; however, we know that many will feel motivated to help, given the extraordinary circumstances. 

We advise that Principals are not policing this request, they are to carry out this instruction and provide the information on availability back to EA. As ever, school leaders should avoid dispute with staff. If staff are unhappy or have any concerns, they should contact their union. Consideration must be given to your staff who will be in need of respite. This also includes staff providing homeschooling materials, this should cease during the Easter period. 

All staff who volunteer to work additional hours beyond their contract will be remunerated. 

Inaccuracy of school list data

This was raised by NAHT(NI) on behalf of members concerned that the list presented on the DE website was inaccurate.  This was explained as some schools not having submitted their data on time, the window for returns has now been extended to four hours. 

Key worker parents

Key worker parents that have been unable to source a place for their child in your setting should now be directed to either the DE or EA websites which have a new joint online facility for parents to source a nearby school. 

Schools in Deficit

Schools in deficit do not need to seek permission from the EA with regard to additional expenses incurred from operational costs for instance increased utility bills and staff pay due to extra opening.  Schools must document all these expenses which will be reimbursed later.

Indemnity

Schools across all phases now have indemnity insurance for every day of the year. 

School opening and attendance data 

 

Schools open

Children attending

Week 1

 

Monday

 

23 March

 

 


519

 

 


1446

Tuesday

24 March

580

1172

Wednesday

25 March

488

989

Thursday

26 March

464

848

Friday

27 March

449

686

Week 2

Monday

30 March

   

  

406

   

  

697

Tuesday

30 March

405

760

Wednesday

30 March

442

800


First published 01 April 2020