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NAHT(NI) Coronavirus - Update 22 March 2020

NAHT have a huge admiration for our school leaders in the face of increasing uncertainty.  We commend you all for your truly heroic efforts over these past few days to support our key workers at this time of national emergency.

DENI letter to schools today

We are aware of the letter issued to schools this afternoon from DENI Permanent Secretary, Derek Baker, requesting information by 6pm today via an online survey.  We know the turnaround for response is beyond the realms of reasonable but please try to take time to respond.  We hope as many of you can participate as possible.  This survey was co-designed with NAHT(NI)’s input and we insisted a comment box was included for school leaders to add information.  Please don’t promise to deliver something you cannot deliver. This is an opportunity to indicate to DENI how many schools will be able to open and how viable this requirement will be in the coming days and weeks.

Opening the school

Only the Principal can decide if it is safe to open or close a school.

If you do not feel sure that you are ready for Monday and need more time to risk assess and plan, you do not have to open - communicate your decision ASAP to parents.

Staff numbers will be a key factor and you can decide what ‘safe’ looks like.  We know this is changing on an hourly basis.

Staff not in school must remain in contact with the Principal in case of further developments.

No level of risk is acceptable.

You have a duty of care to all staff.

Staff feel they are being put in the front line of this disease and will be fearful.  If you feel unsafe you can close.

School staff should not tolerate any abusive behaviour. The Principal can withdraw a child’s place if they feel threatened by a parent / guardian. 

If you have too many applications for childcare, you can prioritise eg children with two frontline health workers first etc.   It is the Principal’s decision on what can be safely catered for with regard to social distancing (at least 2m apart will be hard to achieve). 

Sick children cannot attend any child falling ill must be collected immediately at the school gate.

A school needs to have sufficient hot water and soap/ handwash/sanitiser in order to open.

At the end of the school day please advise parents / guardians that protocols are in place for prompt pickup at the school gate – there will be no entry to the school site.  Parents must be advised that failure to collect children on time will result in withdrawal of their child’s place in school.

The Principal reserves the right to withdraw a place if protocols are not adhered to.

Vulnerable children

Decisions will follow tomorrow on how this group of children are to be provided for.  For now, schools are only open to children of key workers.

School place as a LAST RESORT ONLY

The Minister for Education has again this morning called for key worker parents only to use schools as a last resort to provide care for their children as they carry out their essential duty. If there is alternative provision this must be sought.   If there is a parent/ guardian / elder sibling at home, the child should be kept at home.

We are aware of some healthcare and other key facilities that are providing day care for children of key workers.  Key worker parents may wish to avail of this provision as it will be more convenient to them.

Remember to keep in touch with us at  as we work around the clock to support members, but also feed your concerns directly to the Minister at


First published 22 March 2020