We wish to assure members that NAHT(NI) staff are working tirelessly to keep you up to date with developments as they arise.
DENI will be issuing surveys to schools each day this week requesting information on attendance figures. Please engage if possible. It is important they receive the necessary information so that appropriate provision can be planned for.
Schools that do not have any key worker children to care for DO NOT OPEN. Staff are expected to make contact with the Principal at least once a week and can continue to prepare distance learning at home.
Cluster schools / Hubs
The data required to drive a decision to operate cluster / hub schools is currently being gathered by DENI via their daily survey to schools. Legal clarity will be provided soon regarding roles and responsibilities regarding the school leader and children from other schools.
As we have previously stated, if your school does not have to open due to having no requests for care, it may be possible that those available staff may be required at other schools who are open and in need of additional staff. It is important that available staff are kept informed by the Principal as situations change.
Staff who are not available due to underlying health concerns / self isolating must also remain in contact with the Principal. There is no requirement on staff to provide medical evidence with regard to their absence.
We can confirm that staff with children under school age are not required to attend school.
All staff will be paid as normal with no requirement for evidence of attendance.
We indicated to members in a previous update that some schools who are open to care for children of key care workers were operating a rota system amongst their available staff. The Principal will issue a revised rota as often as is required. All available staff may not be required to work each day depending on demand and available staff.
We are aware in some schools that teachers and their CA’s are pooling ideas together to create work / activities for children at home. Keeping in contact with colleagues is key.
Safeguarding measures are still applicable. If the Principal or VP is the only member of staff available to facilitate care, then the school cannot open.
If the Principal decides to close the school, there will be no repercussions.
Undue pressure / abuse
As of this afternoon, DENI have confirmed that the health and safety of children and staff outweighs all other considerations. DE accept fully that the Principals decision in all instances is final. NAHT(NI) have already warned the minister that should a member come under any undue pressure or face abusive behaviour, NAHT(NI) will instruct the member to either close the school forthwith or withdraw the place of a particular child. Other agencies including local representatives should not attempt to exert pressure on the Principal. The Principal’s decision is final and will be predicated on health and safety.
Vulnerable children are not to be in schools this week as there was insufficient time to plan for them. However, health and safety trumps vulnerability. If protective factors cannot be put in place for particular vulnerable children, they cannot be placed in school. The school must be able to provide a safe environment.
Social distancing trumps all class sizes. Classrooms will only be able to accommodate a limited number of children giving each a 4m2 space in which to sit. If there are too many children, it is at the Principals discretion to prioritise key worker parents. Each school will have differing levels of staff availability which will also be a factor.
Principals must advise key worker parents that placing their child in care at school is at their own risk.
Children in receipt of FSM have now been removed from the list of vulnerable children and are no longer eligible for a care place in schools. Arrangements will shortly be in place to for fortnightly direct payments.
No decision has been made regarding Easter opening at this point.
There is no requirement to remain open during weekends.
DENI have produced a FAQ section on their website which can be found here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/faqs-schools-opening-children-key-workers
We are advised the terminology will be changed as schools are currently not ‘learning’ environments.
To be able to remain open safely, schools must have access to soap, hot water and if possible, hand sanitizer.
The EA have issued guidance to schools regarding contacts for cleaning supplies plus information on exceptional closure. PPE products will not be available to school staff. Gloves and aprons will only be provided to cleaning staff.
See extract below from EA:
If your school requires urgent cleaning supplies please contact EA Procurement at email@example.com or email the COVID-19 Operations Centre on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your school is not part of the EA Cleaning Service and you are experiencing difficulties we will provide advice, resources and cleaning products. Please contact EA’s COVID-19 Operations Centre for more information.
Schools do not have to apply for exceptional closures to the Department of Education. You can let email@example.com know if you do not plan to open however the planned daily return from schools means that this will not be necessary from Monday 23 March onwards.
Please note, we are receiving a high volume of calls, if you cannot get through please leave a message on the answer machine or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
First published 23 March 2020