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Frequently asked questions about coronavirus

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Please note, we have now produced a separate document which provides guidance on the issue of phased school returns. If you cannot find an answer to your question in this document, you may find it here. 

This guidance was last updated on 17 June 2020. We regularly check our guidance against official government advice. However, given the rapidly changing nature of the situation and the frequency with which the government is updating information, we recommend that you read any official advice from the government alongside this document and you always turn to official government advice in the first instance.

  1. Keeping pupils and staff safe
  2. Safeguarding and behaviour
  3. Staffing
  4. NQTs and ITT

  5. Exams, accountability and Ofsted
  6. Summer holidays
  7. Home learning
  8. Trips and residentials
  9. Free school meals
  10. Legal support
  11. Independent schools
  12. Working with parents and families
  13. Financial implications
  14. Governors
  15. Press and media enquires
  16. Logistics and attendance recording
  17. Report writing 
  18. The role of local authorities, the hub model and vulnerable pupils
  19. Supporting pupils, families and colleagues

  20. SEND

  21. Questions about future school reopening

  22. Additional questions 
  23. How we can help 


1.Keeping pupils and staff safe

How can I keep pupils and staff who are in school safe?

The government’s current guidance can be found here and here.

In addition, on 7 April 2020, Public Health England and the DfE published updated guidance on implementing social distancing.

This guidance also contains a significant amount of information in relation to safe practices in schools, including information about personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning equipment, the wearing of jewellery, washing clothes, temperature checks etc.

Schools should also be considering:

  • A daily check of soap and handwash. Our understanding from conversations with Public Health England is that soap is more effective than hand sanitiser in the current circumstances (see DfE and PHE guidance for an explanation of this). There should also be a check that warm water is available for handwashing.
  • The usual guidance for handwashing in this situation applies here and staff and pupils should be reminded of that eg 20 seconds. We recommend that, where possible, children’s handwashing should be supervised.
  • Restricting the number of people on-site to essential staff only. Visitors should only be permitted if essential eg to attend to a pupil’s specific medical needs. The use of staff rotas should help with this.
  • Additional cleaning of toilets and bathrooms by cleaning staff.
  • When cleaning, special attention should be paid to handles, table-tops, switches, computers, chairs and any other equipment that is likely to have been regularly touched during the day. Local authorities should be able to provide advice on cleaning to cleaning staff.
  • In situations where there has been a suspected or confirmed case, schools should follow the following guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings
  • As stated above, the government has published some guidance on social distancing in education settings. Schools should review this and consider how they can best implement social distancing taking account of the pupils they work with eg avoiding activities and games that involve physical contact, seating arrangements that allow for two metres space (especially when food is being consumed), careful storage and labelling of water bottles, staggering break and lunchtimes, careful planning for how pupils enter, leave and move around school.

What should I do if a child or member of staff starts to display symptoms?

If a member of staff displays symptoms, they should go home immediately and follow the government’s self-isolation guidance.

If a child displays symptoms, they should be immediately isolated from other pupils. Staff should also try to ensure they remain two metres away while still aiming to provide the reassurance and care particularly young children will need.

The school should contact parents and request they collect their child from the school immediately.

Any member of staff who has been supervising a child with suspected symptoms should immediately wash their hands in line with current guidance. The room that a child has used in this circumstance (including bathrooms) should be fully cleaned before anyone else uses them.

The DfE guidance on this issue can be found in the ‘When Open’ section of this document

What happens if there is a confirmed case of covid-19 in my school?

The DfE guidance states:

“When a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus (COVID-19), they should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days and arrange to have a test to see if they have COVID-19. They can do this by visiting NHS.UK to arrange or contact NHS 119 via telephone if they do not have internet access. Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), and are encouraged to get tested in this scenario.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.

As part of the national test and trace programme, if other cases are detected within the cohort or in the wider setting, Public Health England’s local health protection teams will conduct a rapid investigation and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take. In some cases a larger number of other children, young people may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure – perhaps the whole class, site or year group. Where settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, closure of the whole setting will not generally be necessary.”

How can my staff access tests for coronavirus?

The government guidance on testing for essential workers states: The government has announced that all essential workers, and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), can now be tested. This list of essential workers includes education and childcare staff, support and teaching staff, social workers and specialist education professionals in addition to social care staff.

Booking is done through a new online system. Employers can register and refer self-isolating staff, and employees are able to book a test directly for themselves or members of their household who are exhibiting symptoms.

Employees can choose to visit one of the drive-through testing sites across the country, or to receive a home testing kit.

To obtain a login to the employer referral portal, employers of essential workers should contact portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk.

For further information, read guidance on coronavirus (Covid-19) getting tested.

Can children and staff who have contact with a positive case return earlier than the 14 days period if they have a negative swab result? Can schools ask for evidence of a negative test result?

The DfE has told us: “No, as they could still develop Covid-19. It remains 14 days.  PHE advise that it is not appropriate for schools to ask for evidence of a negative test result – we plan to be clearer in guidance about this.”

Is the government recording cases of people who work in school settings who test positive? Is this information going to be published?

The DfE has told us: “Data is being collected on numbers of tests, and information is going to be published. However, it is currently unclear if published data will go down to school level.”

Will the DfE consider writing some template letters that schools can adapt and send to parents of there is a positive case in their school?

The DfE has told us: “We are reviewing guidance to ensure clear and consistent messages.  A number of these have been updated and published this week. We are not currently planning any template letters, but may consider it as we review guidance.  PHE’s Local Health Protection Teams will be advising schools in the event of outbreaks.”

What is the DfE’s view on whether children attend more than one childcare setting?

The DfE has told us “To minimise contact between groups of children and staff, children should attend just one setting wherever possible and parents should be encouraged to minimise as far as possible the number of education and childcare settings their child attends. Childminding settings should consider how they can work with parents to agree how best to manage any necessary journeys, for example pick-ups and drop-offs at schools, to reduce the need for a provider to travel with groups of children.”

We have asked that this be added to the information provided to parents.

NAHT note that DfE has not issued guidance relating to pupils who are educated in multiple settings. However, it would be in keeping with the rest of the guidance to try to aim to have pupils only attending one setting at the current time.  

Should there be restrictions on visitors coming into the school?

Many schools have moved to a ‘non-essential visitor approach’. This is a decision for schools, based on their circumstances, eg it might be different for special schools.

If the reason for the school visit is essential and does not amount to a group visit, the visit may go ahead, subject to a straightforward risk assessment.

What should I do if I have reason to believe that the transport companies bringing pupils to and from school are not implementing appropriate safety measures, particularly for young people with complex needs and / or increased clinically vulnerability?

If a school is made aware that transport operators are not taking reasonable actions to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus to children, for example, by not following adequate hygiene rules and / or not adhering to reasonable social distancing measures where possible, we suggest the following:

  • Immediately communicate the school’s specific concerns to the person responsible for the transport contract (eg LA, MAT, or the head of the individual setting) in order for them to address concerns directly with the transport operator.

The person responsible should:

  • Contact the operator to share the specific concerns that have been raised and that need to be addressed as soon as possible, at least in time for the next planned journey of pupils.
  • Inform parents of the transport concerns and explain what is being done to address them.
  • Consider whether it might be necessary to seek alternative transport provision, at least during the interim, if the operator is subsequently unable to address concerns adequately.
  • Monitor any new arrangements on an ongoing basis.

NAHT recommends that members ensure all of the above actions are logged and a written record is kept in order to provide a clear sequence of events and evidence of actions taken. We recommend that brief records of verbal conversations and any actions agreed are taken too. 

How can we prioritise getting soap and sanitiser to schools? Schools have run out.

Local authority teams have been tasked with getting supplies of soap and handwash to schools. We have been told by PHE that soap and handwash are more effective than hand sanitiser.

Can we continue to use the swimming pool/take children swimming?

The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group’s website provides useful information regarding the use of swimming pools at present.

What about safety measures in special schools, including use of PPE?

The government’s advice on PPE in schools can be found here.

The government has also published SEND risk assessment guidance.

The government 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 2 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 and PHE 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 which provides some useful 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.

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 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 or 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 government advice, your school continues to urgently require essential PPE supplies, 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

They simply match 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 simply need to register their specific PPE needs on the website

SOS Supplies then provide regular email updates showing which companies can provide PPE, their minimum order levels and prices – they are currently providing these on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They intend 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 are able to be met) as you would with any purchase order.

What does the law say about PPE? 

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPER) require an employer to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for its employees where a risk to their health and safety cannot be controlled by any other means. 

Reg. 4 of the PPER provides that every employer shall ensure that suitable PPE is provided to its employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where, and to the extent that, such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective. To be “suitable”, PPE must be (i) appropriate for the risks involved; (ii) take account of ergonomic requirements, the state of health of the person who may wear it and the characteristics of their work station; (iii) be capable of fitting the wearer correctly; and (iiii) so far as is practicable, effective to prevent or adequately control the risks in question without increasing overall risk. 

Reg. 6 of the PPER provides that, before choosing any PPE, the employer must carry out an assessment to determine whether the PPE it intends to provide is suitable. As part of that assessment, the employer must (i) assess any risks to health and safety which have not been avoided by other means; (ii) define the characteristics that PPE must have to be effective against the relevant risks, taking into account any risks that the equipment itself may create; and (iii) decide whether the PPE that is available possesses the necessary characteristics.

What about premises management during a period of partial closure?

On 24 April 2020, the DfE published the following guidance on this issue, covering topics such as gas safety, cold water systems, fire safety, ventilation and security. 

What happens if the ‘R number’ in my region is above 1?

NAHT is aware that the University of Cambridge has recently published data that suggests the R number is above one in some regions in England. The research in question splits England into seven large geographical regions. These regions incorporate multiple local authorities.

NAHT believes that it is important that local authorities (LAs) make decisions based on the range of data available to them, and in consultation with Public Health England. NAHT believes there should be flexibility within government policy so LAs can make decisions about school opening based on the local data available.  

Members who are concerned about the R number in their region should contact their local authority to discuss this further.

NAHT will continue to work at a local level and liaise with LAs as appropriate. 

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2. Safeguarding and pupil behaviour

Are there additional actions schools need to take with regards to safeguarding during this period?

On 27 March 2020, the DfE published safeguarding guidance to cover the new arrangements in schools.

School leaders are advised to read the guidance in full.

The guidance covers a number of topics including the following:

  • Keeping children safe in schools and colleges
  • Child protection policies
  • Designated safeguarding leads (DSLs)
  • Vulnerable children
  • Support for children with mental health issues

  • Attendance
  • Staff training and safeguarding induction
  • Children moving schools and colleges
  • Safer recruitment and volunteers
  • Online safety (additional advice specifically for parents and carers is also available here)
  • Online safety away from school and college.

A key point made in this guidance is that schools’ child protection and safeguarding policies are likely to need updating to reflect the new circumstances. Rather than writing a completely new policy, it may be possible to write a short annex that summarises any changes made to the original policy. The DfE guidance lists particular areas that a revised policy/annex should reflect. 

It is important that all staff and volunteers are aware of the new policy and are kept up to date as it is revised. This should also include either the safeguarding governor/trustee, chair or another member of the board. The revised policy should continue to be made available publicly.

The document reiterates the following:

  • With regard to safeguarding, the best interests of children must always continue to come first
  • If anyone in a school or college has a safeguarding concern about any child, they should continue to act and act immediately
  • A DSL or deputy should be available
  • It is essential that unsuitable people are not allowed to enter the children’s workforce and/or gain access to children
  • Children should continue to be protected when they are online.

Schools should continue to report safeguarding concerns to local Children’s Services in the normal way. 

What happens in the event the school has no designated safeguarding lead or first-aider?

For information about Early Years first aid and paediatric first aid requirements, refer to the specific government guidance on this issue.

Government guidance published on 22 March states the following: “Where schools and trusts have concerns about the impact of staff absence – such as their designated safeguarding lead or first-aiders – they should discuss immediately with the local authority or trust.”

The government guidance on first aid states:

Under the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, employers are responsible for providing adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. These regulations still apply but there is no set ratio of people to first aiders. Instead, educational settings are expected to conduct risk assessments to determine their own requirements.

We strongly recommend schools consult advice set out by the Health and Safety Executive, including:

Safeguarding guidance released by the DfE on 27 March 2020 states the following: 

  • The optimal scenario for any school or college providing care for children is to have a trained DSL or deputy available on site
  • It is recognised this may not be possible, and where this is the case, there are two options to consider:

               o A trained DSL or deputy from the school or college can be available to be contacted via phone or online video - for example, working from home

              o Sharing trained DSLs or deputies with other schools or colleges (who should be available to be contacted via phone or online video)

  • Where a trained DSL or deputy is not on-site, in addition to one of the above options, the department recommends a senior leader takes responsibility for coordinating safeguarding on site
  • For the period covid-19 measures are in place, a DSL (or deputy) who has been trained will continue to be classed as a trained DSL (or deputy) even if they miss their refresher training
  • Whatever the scenario, it is important that all school and college staff and volunteers have access to a trained DSL or deputy and know on any given day who that person is and how to speak to them. 

NAHT suggests that where there is any uncertainty, schools should contact their local authority immediately. 

Should school staff be doing home visits for vulnerable pupils? 

Update on 6 April 2020: NAHT believes that, in the majority of cases, this is not a realistic expectation of school staff. Schools are unlikely to have the capacity to carry out home visits at this point in time because they are supporting key workers' children and vulnerable pupils in school. 

The DfE's guidance (issued on 3/4/2020) provides social workers with advice about visiting children and families at this time. That guidance makes it clear that there are alternatives to physical face-to-face contact that social workers can consider. 

Where highly vulnerable pupils are not in school, you should aim to stay in touch through phone calls and report the absence to the child’s social worker. 

Should all pupils with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) be in school? 

The DfE guidance on this states:

“Schools, colleges, other training providers, and local authorities will need to consider the needs of all children and young people with an EHC plan, alongside the views of their parents, and make a risk assessment for each child or young person. This will inform whether they need to continue to be offered a school/college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home.“

Have there been any changes to arrangements for exclusions on disciplinary grounds during the coronavirus outbreak?

The normal arrangements and procedures that must follow a decision to exclude on disciplinary grounds are described in the 2017 statutory guidance ‘Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England’.

New regulations, updated at the end of May 2020, change some of the procedures that must be followed in relation to exclusion, to give greater flexibility to schools, parents and local authorities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. They apply to all maintained schools, academies (including alternative provision academies but excluding 16 to 19 academies) and pupil referral units (PRUs).

The arrangements came into force on 1 June 2020 and will apply to all exclusions occurring from then until 24 September 2020 (inclusive of those dates). 

The 2017 arrangements remain unchanged except as noted in the additional DfE guidance under each of the following sections:

  1. Important dates
  2. Remote access meetings
  3. Arranging a remote access meeting
  4. Timescales for meetings of governing boards
  5. Meetings to consider permanent exclusions, and fixed period exclusions resulting in the pupil missing more than 15 school days in a term
  6. Meetings to consider fixed period exclusions resulting in the pupil missing between six and 15 school days in a term
  7. Timescales for application for independent reviews of exclusions
  8. Timescales for meetings of independent review panels to consider permanent exclusions

Detail for each of the above areas can be found here.

Where can I get advice about supporting children who are experiencing domestic abuse? 

The Operation Encompass Helpline has been created in response to the covid-19 pandemic to support the growing number of children experiencing domestic abuse, many of whom will not currently be attending their school. You can find out how to access the helpline here

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3. Staffing

What should I do if a member of staff tells me that they can’t come back into school?

NAHT believes it is vital that all professionals in schools work together and remain supportive of each other during this difficult time. It is important that all staff are mindful that this will be a stressful time for everyone and start any conversations from that basis.

The government’s latest guidance includes information about staff who may be shielding or who are clinically vulnerable.

Where individual members of staff present specific circumstances that appear to place them at greater than normal risk, it will be prudent to seek additional information, a record of which can be attached to a standard risk assessment and that sets out the steps that have been taken or agreed that responds to those specific circumstances. This may include a decision for the member of staff to remain at home.

The government regards teaching and support staff as being ‘key workers’ and as such they are expected to report for or be available to work, unless their individual circumstances place them in a higher risk group – it is consequently the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken to mitigate / reduce or remove the risk altogether by putting in place a set of working arrangements proportionate to the issues being presented and to keep an auditable record of the information presented by individual members of staff and the school’s response in each case. We have produced this guide to who the ‘employer’ is here.

Where possible, schools should take a flexible approach in scaling up their resources, some cases will fall into categories where they should clearly be at home as their conditions would amount to an unacceptable risk to themselves and the school.

NAHT is aware that members also have questions about any possible impact on pay and conditions and we are seeking clarity from the DfE on this matter. In the meantime, school leaders should consult with their usual HR advisors in the first instance.

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 wider re-opening 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 pertaining to BAME frontline staff currently being undertaken by Public Health England and hopes this will help 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 its implications for different sectors. We are also raising this issue as a matter of urgent priority in our conversations with the government.

We believe the NHS England 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 very useful 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 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 that there are likely to have been a number of changes to schools’ risk assessments in recent months, and in light of the evidence that suggested certain groups with protected characteristics are at particular risk, NAHT would encourage schools in England to consider the use of equality impact assessments or some other similar form of written record when developing your risk assessments. This is to help demonstrate there has been active consideration of equality duties and appropriate relevant questions have been considered. 

Wales & 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. 

Further advice and guidance on applicability and requirements of the Equality Act 2010 for schools can be found in guidance from the Department for Education, and in NAHT’s advice and guidance here. Schools may also find the following guidance a useful template.

For NI schools, there is specific guidance from the NI Equality Commission here

I have seen reference to ‘the employer’, who is the employer in my case?

We have produced a guide to ‘who is the employer’ which you can read here

The impact of the coronavirus on employees’ sick pay

Once again, we encourage 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.’

Should we cancel staff meetings and similar events?

Yes. Schools are advised to cancel any non-essential meetings and events and to focus solely on the childcare being provided.

Schools may wish to organise remote ‘keeping in touch’ meetings for staff, but care should be taken to organise these within ‘normal’ working hours.

What are the implications for supply teachers?

Our understanding is that most supply teachers will benefit from the coronavirus job retention scheme.

This article by Tes provides useful information about this issue.

Further information about supply teachers and agencies can be found here.

What does Covid-19 mean for appraisal, pay progression, hearings and other professional matters?

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in significant disruption to the conduct of a wide range of professional and organisational matters within schools.  NAHT has engaged with NGA and ASCL to produce straightforward and pragmatic joint guidance for leaders and governors/trusts on a range of key issues, including:

  • performance management and appraisal
  • pay progression
  • restructuring and redundancy
  • academy conversion
  • disciplinary, capability and ill-health procedures
  • employment contracts

Our joint guidance is available here

How will this affect notice periods?

We have published a joint statement in partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA), National Governance Association (NGA), NEU, NASUWT and ASCL.

Included in this is the following statement: “The extent of the impact will vary from school to school and, therefore, we do not believe that there should be any changes to the notice periods. In this difficult period, there will need to be an element of flexibility all round. We would encourage schools to have a flexible response if it appears that teachers and leaders are impacted by the covid-19 pandemic and submit a resignation outside of the normal time-frame. For those employees that are looking to resign and/or retire themselves, we would encourage you to provide your governing boards and/or senior leadership team with as much notice as possible and stay within the standard notice period dates as far as is possible, as you would do in normal circumstances. It may also be helpful to direct boards to NGA's current guidance on managing the head teacher recruitment process in the current situation.”

We will continue to keep this under review as the situation develops, and we get a clearer understanding of the timescales involved. 

What about volunteers and staff moving between schools?

The DfE's safeguarding guidance published on 27 March 2020 covers safeguarding considerations in regard to volunteers and staff moving between schools. School leaders should refer to that guidance for further information.

Where can I access support for my own 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:

  • 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.

Their 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.

To contact directly call  0800 917 4055 or visit educationsupportpartnership.org.uk.

Nb: The following five questions have been written in partnership with our colleagues at ASCL: 

Can teachers on maternity leave be asked to return to work early so that the contract of the teacher employed to cover them can be terminated? 

No. Teachers on maternity leave should be allowed to continue with their maternity leave as planned and should not be contacted to discuss ending it early. Any arrangements to cover them should be left in place and temporary contracts honoured. 

Can a job offer to a member of staff who was due to start with us after Easter be withdrawn? 

If you have made an unconditional job offer to the prospective employee and they have accepted it, withdrawing the offer will amount to a breach of contract and the prospective employee may be entitled to claim damages. 

Although employers are legally required to provide employees with a statement of employment particulars, the failure to make an offer of employment in writing will not prevent a binding contract of employment forming provided a prospective employee accepts the same.  

The prospective employee’s acceptance does not have to be in writing to be binding (for example, an employee can accept an offer via a phone call or face-to-face conversation, as well as in writing through an email, text message or letter).

If the prospective employee has accepted the offer of the new role, they may already have given notice of resignation to their current employer; teachers would have had to have done this by 28 February if they are on Burgundy Book terms and conditions. 

Can I expect staff who may have a mild underlying health condition (eg asthma) to attend work? 

It is not for employers to determine the severity of an employee’s health condition. Employees and their medical advisers are best placed to decide this, and they will need to follow the government and NHS guidelines with regards to self-isolating or shielding. Employers should not suggest to any employee with an underlying health condition, as defined by the government, that they should attend work. 

Can teachers be subject to disciplinary action or face sanctions for self-isolating if they were not ill but someone in their household had symptoms? 

No, the government guidelines over self-isolation are very clear. The national agreements for teachers and support staff also state that any absences relating to this are not reckonable against the employee’s entitlement to sick leave. As such, it would be inappropriate to deal with them through the normal absence management procedures and impose any sanctions. 

Where can I access support for my own 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 that's counselling, CCBT or signposting the caller to additional services. 

Education Support Partnership’s contact details are as follows: 

t: 0800 917 4055 

w:educationsupportpartnership.org.uk

What is the situation with paediatric first aid requirements currently?

Update on 27 April 2020: On 24 April, the government published new guidance relating to paediatric first aid requirements. 

The guidance states the following:“If children are aged 2-5 within a setting, providers must use their ‘best endeavours’ to ensure one person with a full PFA certificate is on-site when children are present. If after using best endeavours they are still unable to secure a member of staff with full PFA to be on-site, they must carry out a written risk assessment and ensure that someone with a current First Aid at Work or emergency PFA certification is on-site at all times children are on premises….‘Best endeavours’ means to identify and take all the steps possible within your power, which could, if successful, ensure there is a paediatric first aider on-site when a setting is open, as per the usual EYFS requirement on PFA.” 

NAHT recommends that members read this section of the guidance in full. 

How will social workers and social care support us in this? 

The DfE’s safeguarding advice published on 27 March 2020 makes it explicit that "local authorities have the key day-to-day responsibility for delivery of children’s social care. Social workers and VSHs will continue to work with vulnerable children in this difficult period and should support these children to access this provision.” 

NAHT is still seeking clearer guidance from the DfE on the role of social workers supporting vulnerable pupils at this time. 

Have Early Years staff qualification and ratio requirements been altered? 

The DfE has issued specific guidance on this topic, which can be accessed here.

What will the impact be on the Teachers' Pension Scheme?

The Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) has released some FAQs for both employers and members of the scheme outlining how the TPS might be affected due to the current situation. The FAQs provide some additional guidance on the impact on areas including pension contributions, member status and the reporting of salary and service.

I am trying to apply for retirement on the grounds of ill-health, but I am unable to obtain the evidence I need due to medical services being diverted to support the covid-19 response. What is NAHT doing to support members with this? 

NAHT is aware that, due to the current situation, many members are unable to progress their applications for ill-health retirement, either due to being unable to obtain the medical evidence required from medical professionals whose resources are focused elsewhere and/or are unable to demonstrate they have completed ‘all reasonable treatment,’ as many treatments are now being cancelled. 

We recognise that these blockers or delays could result in members being financially impacted if they are unable to apply for ill-health retirement before their sick pay ends, and we are, therefore, working with other stakeholders and unions to explore possible solutions. 

In the interim, we urge employers to exercise flexibility and recognise that the situation might require an extension to contractual sick pay to support individuals who have no way of taking forward their ill-health applications at this time and would otherwise face a significant financial detriment. 

Update: The Local Government Association have raised this issue with their members and are directing them to this guidance. 

If you have a specific case you would like to discuss with us, please contact our advice line. 

Can I still recruit teachers at this time?

The government has confirmed that schools can continue to recruit teachers at this time. However, there are clearly a number of logistical challenges in doing so – the most obvious being not being able to carry out face to face interviews.

The use of video technology is one way some schools have tried to overcome some of these challenges while accepting that the interview process will inevitably look very different and the usual activities schools carry out won’t be possible.            

Safer recruitment practices remain as important as ever. 

What about the recruitment of international teachers?

The DfE has published updated guidance on The International Recruitment Programme. You can access that here.

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4. NQTs and ITT

Will NQTs have their induction period extended? 

No. The DfE has issued guidance on induction for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and absences as a result of covid-19.  Subject to parliamentary agreement, this states that NQTs absent for reasons related to the current covid-19 public health emergency will not have their induction period automatically extended. 

Current arrangements state that ad-hoc absences totalling 30 days or more automatically extend the induction by the aggregate number of days absent. However, the DfE intends to amend the regulations to ensure that any absence related to covid-19, including school closures, sickness or self-isolation, will not count towards this limit. This means that NQTs who are currently undertaking statutory induction can complete their induction this academic year as expected, provided they meet the Teachers’ Standards.

Head teachers and appropriate bodies should continue to judge whether an NQT has met the Teachers’ Standards on completion of the induction period, which for most, will be the end of the academic year.

If there are concerns that an NQT has not achieved the standards by the end of their induction period, we would strongly encourage head teachers and appropriate bodies to exercise their discretion to recommend an extension, allowing the NQT further time and opportunity to demonstrate their ability to meet the standards.

More detailed advice is available here. 

Is recruitment to Initial Teacher Training for the 2020 recruitment round still open? 

Yes. Providers are working to adapt their recruitment practices removing classroom exercises and including online interviews. 

UCAS remains open and the DfE’s teaching advice line is operational for inbound calls and webchat between 8.30am and 5pm. Decision-making deadlines for UCAS Teacher Training and the DfE's Apply for Teacher Training are on hold for four weeks from 20 March 2020. 

Due to current restrictions, the DfE’s Train to Teach face-to-face events have been cancelled, and the Get School Experience programme is temporarily suspended. The DfE is investigating the feasibility of alternative online events to support the Train to Teach programme. 

Further information is available here

What is the advice for schools currently hosting ITT trainees? 

Where possible, schools and providers should continue to deliver courses, although the DfE accepts there will be significant disruption. Trainees will remain on and be expected to engage with their course until its normal end date.

Bursary, scholarship, school direct salaried and postgraduate teaching apprenticeship grant payments to schools and providers will continue as normal. Schools and providers should continue to follow the relevant funding guidance, including making payments to trainees where applicable.   

The DfE has now issued detailed guidance for schools and providers of initial teacher training which is available here.  

Award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) 

How will current ITT trainees achieve QTS? 

The DfE is encouraging providers, where possible, to continue delivering their ITT courses online by distributing resources. However, recognising the disruption to courses due to the closure of schools and other institutions, the DfE has made temporary changes to the ITT criteria regulations that will enable ITT providers to make judgements on trainees based on assessments already completed and each trainee’s current trajectory of progress towards meeting the teachers' standards. The temporary ITT criteria can be found here.

Trainees already meeting or making progress towards the teachers' standards should be recommended for QTS at the end of the course, where the ITT provider judges that the trainee would have completed their ITT course successfully. Trainees must continue to participate in their course to its end in order to be recommended for QTS. Further guidance will be provided as soon as possible for those trainees not judged to be making adequate progress and who were unlikely to have met the teachers’ standards by the end of their ITT course. 

Detailed guidance is available here.

I have offered a trainee a job from September 2020 – will the trainee be able to take up the post? 

If the provider has judged that the trainee has or would have successfully completed their course, they will be awarded QTS and will be able to take up employment. 

Trainees will have missed a large portion of their course – will they need additional support, and where will they get it? 

Yes, it is likely that NQTs from this cohort may need additional support, particularly in areas where their school or centre-based experience was disrupted. NAHT is in discussion with the DfE about how support for these new teachers can be best provided, particularly in the extraordinary circumstances that schools will face when they reopen. 

Completion of the NQT year 

What does the closure mean for the completion of the NQT induction year for the 2020 cohort? 

The DfE has provided detailed guidance (available here). This confirms that head teachers, induction tutors and Appropriate Bodies should continue to refer to the statutory induction guidance for NQTs and that the final assessment meeting should take place at the end of the induction period.  

It also sets out guidance for head teachers and governing bodies on making a decision on whether an NQT has met the Teachers’ Standards if they have not been in school for the full three terms.  The guidance confirms that subject to a change in regulations, absences of more than 30 days that result from the covid-19 pandemic (including school closure, sickness or self-isolation) will not count towards the limit. 

Will Appropriate Bodies require additional assurance that the 2020 cohort of NQTs has successfully completed their induction? 

It’s likely that most NQTs will adapt to unusual circumstances.  The Appropriate Bodies have the discretion to be able to apply extensions in line with statutory guidance where the disruption to training means that it would be unreasonable to expect an NQT to demonstrate satisfactory performance against the relevant standards within the usual timeframe. 

More information on the induction for newly qualified teachers is available here

The Early Career Framework (ECF) 

I have signed up to pilot the ECF in my school in September 2020.  Will this go ahead? 

The DfE has informed us that the rollout of the ECF pilot is on track, but it is naturally considering this in the context of the rapidly evolving covid-19 situation.  NAHT is in active discussion with the DfE on this matter.

Update 10 June 2020

What happens to 2019-20 ITT trainees who are not judged to be on a trajectory to meet the teachers’ standards?

The DfE has clarified what happens for ITT trainees judged not to be on a trajectory to meet the teachers’ standards.

The DfE guidance states that ‘The assessment and recommendation for the award of QTS will remain solely at the ITT provider’s discretion, and providers should undertake such assessments based on their professional judgement and expertise. These allowances do not, under any circumstances, give trainees a ‘free pass’, and ITT providers should not make any recommendation for QTS without giving full consideration to a trainee’s progress and available evidence.’

Where an ITT provider deems that a trainee is not meeting, or not on a trajectory to meet the teachers’ standards, their course should be extended beyond their original planned end date to allow the trainee ‘a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate in the autumn term 2020 that they meet the teachers’ standards.  It is the responsibility of ITT providers to determine the nature, content and duration of training required by trainees whose courses extend into the autumn term, in line with current arrangements.’

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5. Exams, accountability and Ofsted

Will Ofsted inspections continue?

Ofsted has suspended routine inspections of schools, colleges, early years settings, children’s social care providers and local authorities to reduce the burden on staff; however, urgent inspections because of a specific, raised concerns may still go ahead.

Ofsted inspected my school before the pandemic. When can I expect an inspection report? 

  • Ofsted will contact schools asking the head teacher to complete a factual accuracy check of the draft inspection report (if the head teacher is able to do so)
  • Following this, Ofsted will finalise the school’s inspection report
  • The final inspection report will be sent to the school
  • The school may share the final report with registered parents and pupils, but it must make clear that the report has not been formally published by Ofsted
  • The school may place the ‘unpublished’ report on its website. 

 

Previously, Ofsted had announced that it would not publish school inspection reports until schools resumed normal operations. 

However, in response to requests from schools, Ofsted will now write to individual schools to ask if they would like their inspection report to be published as soon as possible. 

If a school agrees, Ofsted will confirm the date on which their report will appear on the Ofsted website so that the school can make arrangements to share it with parents in advance of publication. 

If the school indicates that it does not want its report to be published at the moment, it will continue to be withheld.

I’ve seen that inspection is suspended for one month from 1 May; what happens after that?

The Coronavirus Act provides for the disapplication of the duty to inspect and report on schools under section 5 of the Education Act 2005.  It also disapplies relevant duties for section 48 inspections of a school’s religious character, and the duty for an LA or proprietor to make a written statement of action within 10 working days of the publication of an inadequate inspection outcome.

The DfE has no plans to restart inspection. Under the Act, the DfE must renew these disapplications at the end of each calendar month. 

How will GCSE, AS and A level grades be awarded to students this summer?

Ofqual has published detailed guidance about the information schools and colleges need to provide to exam boards for the awarding of these grades. You can find out more here

What will happen about performance data for this academic year?

On 23 March 2020, the Department for Education announced that it will 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 on the basis of 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 the way school and college accountability will operate for 2019 to 2020. You can read its update here.

What about the awarding of technical and vocational qualifications this summer?

Ofqual has confirmed that vocational and technical qualifications being used for progression to higher and further education will, as far as possible, be awarded a calculated result. This is expected to include many BTEC Nationals, Cambridge Technicals and UAL Diplomas as well as general qualifications, such as the International Baccalaureate, Cambridge Pre-U and qualifications included under the umbrella term ‘Core Maths’. Learners due to take assessments for Functional Skills qualifications before the end of the summer will also receive a calculated result.  You can find out more here.

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6.Summer holidays

Will schools be expected to remain open over the summer holiday?

At the Downing Street press conference on 19 April 2020, the Secretary of State said there are “currently no plans to have schools open over the summer period.” 

NAHT has been clear that we do not expect school leaders or teachers to be asked to work over the summer holidays. 

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7. Home learning

Will I be expected to set work or use technology to support home learning during a period of closure?

While there is no statutory obligation to do this, schools may wish to explore using existing technology to set pupils' work and activities. Alternatively, you may wish to consider sending home physical packs of work and activities. Schools that can set work for pupils may wish to update their learning platforms with activities. If schools choose to do this, there are a couple of things to be mindful of:

  • Without a teacher present and with the inevitability of varying levels of support available at home, teachers will want to ensure activities do not require high levels of support and input
  • Schools should remind staff about policies around the safe use of the internet for pupils and staff; they should also be mindful that pupils’ access to the internet may vary and not all pupils will be able to access activities set
  • Schools should be mindful of the pressures on families in the current circumstances. For example, some families will have children who need to share devices. With that in mind, it may not be wise to try to ‘recreate’ a usual school day. Families may need some flexibility in terms of the times they access online learning tools.

Should schools close, head teachers and teachers need to consider the challenges and issues around delivering learning remotely to enable a degree of educational continuity for their pupils. Quite how far schools go in supporting home learning will be a matter for each school. 

However, parents must understand that no amount of preparation will replicate the typical school day, and any attempt to provide educational continuity will be carried out with the aim of supporting parents in the education of their child.

Google Drive and its learning platforms are relatively well embedded in many schools. Other schools will have their own learning platforms. We are aware that many technology providers are offering extended free trials to schools during this period. These platforms can continue to be used for staff to share information with each other and with pupils, should they choose. To ensure inclusion, teachers will need to maintain opportunities for particularly young pupils and pupils with ‘additional needs’ to continue their learning.

Here’s a suggested plan:

  • Agree on the platforms for staff to use to share information and resources should you require this
  • Agree on the process of communication of the daily/weekly tasks set
  • Agree with teachers the expectations in terms of providing pupils with feedback – being mindful of the workload demands that this could pose. 

  • Ensure pupils have usernames and passwords to the platforms you plan to use as a school, eg Google Drive
  • Prepare a protocol for parents that sets out the parameters for communication with your school or teachers
  • Give teachers the time to prepare potential learning tasks in readiness for a possible school closure
  • Offer pupils a menu of daily/weekly tasks to choose from.

I have heard that some disadvantaged children can get free laptops, how do I access this scheme? 

The government guidance on this scheme can be found here.

How can we help to keep children safe when using the internet at home?

Most schools will have pre-existing safer-internet use policies that pupils will be familiar with. Reminding pupils of these and highlighting any new changes are important first steps.

On 27 March 2020, the DfE published new safeguarding guidance. In this guidance, the DfE suggests the following:

  • The starting point for online teaching should be that the same principles as set out in the school’s or college’s staff behaviour policy (sometimes known as a code of conduct)
  • As with the child protection policy, in some cases, an annex/addendum summarising key covid-19 related changes may be more effective than re-writing/re-issuing the whole policy
  • Schools and colleges are likely to be in regular contact with parents and carers. Those communications should be used to reinforce the importance of children being safe online
  • Parents and carers may choose to supplement the school’s or college’s online offer with support from online companies and in some cases individual tutors. In their communications with parents and carers, schools and colleges should emphasise the importance of securing online support from a reputable organisation/individual who can provide evidence that they are safe and can be trusted to have access to children. 

What resources are available?

The EEF has published a short research review, which school leaders may find helpful. 

We have published a list of some of the free resources currently available to support learning in the home environment here

Update on 7 April 2020: The DfE has also published a list of online education resources for home education. 

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8.  Trips and residential

My travel company has not refunded the cost of a school trip – what should I do?

NAHT has met with the DfE officials to press for action on travel providers who fail to repay monies for cancelled school trips.  The DfE is pressing travel companies and the industry bodies ABTA and ATOL that run bonded schemes to ensure schools are refunded and is in discussions with travel insurance companies.

The DfE does not have the power to make travel companies comply with their duties.  Furthermore, any losses experienced by a school do not fall within the eligibility criteria for funding exceptional costs associated with covid-19. NAHT continues to press the DfE on the scope of this funding.

  1. The DfE advises that in the first instance, schools should seek a refund from their travel provider. The DfE is aware that some school travel providers (including a very large company that is industry bonded) are shirking their responsibilities, and referring schools to travel insurers. Such companies fail to recognise that this is likely to cause them reputational damage and lost business in the future.
  2. Schools should check their travel contracts and claim a refund from their travel provider. If this is unsuccessful, they should approach ABTA or ATOL if the provider is a member to seek their assistance.   
  3. Schools may be able to make a claim through their school insurance provider. For those schools insured through the DfE’s Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA), many have been able to make a successful claim.
  4. If the cost of a trip was paid using a school credit card it may be possible to claim using the insurance cover provided on purchases by the credit card company.
  5. Some schools have found that LAs have been able to successfully exert pressure on travel companies or insurers. 
  6. As a final resort, schools may have to pursue a claim through the courts for goods and services not received, or consider whether the case can be referred to the financial conduct authority.

The DfE advises that in some cases a refund might be obtained through more than one route - for example, a partial refund from a travel provider, followed by the refund of the balance through ABTA or an insurer.

Some travel insurance policies only provide cover for listed notifiable diseases.  Since covid-19 is a new disease, claims may not be covered if these terms apply to a specific policy.

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9. Free school meals (FSM)

Update on 15 April 2020: NAHT is acutely aware of the very significant problems members are facing when accessing the national voucher scheme. We have been communicating these major issues with the DfE on a regular basis and urging the government to address them. On 15 April we emailed members directly on this topic. 

On the morning of 20 April 2020, the provider of the FSM national scheme sent an update email to all schools.  

Where can I find out more about managing free school meal (FSM) provision in this ‘closure period’?

The government guidance on managing FSMs during this period can be read here.  

Can we give families cash rather than e-vouchers for food?

Our advice is that now the national voucher scheme has been set up, schools should try to use this if they can and not give families cash for FSM. However, given the current issues schools are facing, it may be that schools need to provide parents with vouchers directly (up to the value of £15 per week). NAHT advice is, wherever possible, to use vouchers instead of cash as it is easier to keep an audit trail that way.

What should I do if I am having problems with the FSM national scheme?

The DfE has confirmed that Edenred can be contacted directly via email at freeschoolmeals@edenred.com or via phone on 0333 400 5932 (a national rate number).

Further details can be found here.

When will Year 11 and Year 13 pupils stop being eligible for Free School Meal support?

The DfE will be providing further guidance on this in the near future. In the interim, we have been informed to advise members to work on the basis that eligibility will stop at the point at which pupils would normally stop attending school (ie at the end of the exam period), in line with when pupils would usually stop receiving free school meals.  

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10. Legal support from NAHT

NAHT will continue to provide advice and representation for members in connection with Regulatory, Employment and Criminal proceedings.

While most hearings are currently being postponed, time limits for submitting employment claims have not been modified, and deadlines in connection with regulatory and criminal proceedings may still apply.

If members are notified that they are the subject of a regulatory or criminal investigation (or if members require advice on employment claims), they should contact legal@naht.org.uk without delay.

All professional conduct panel hearings have been postponed.

Education Workforce Council (Wales)

All fitness to practice hearings up until the end of May have been postponed - this is likely to be extended. Deadlines for responses still apply.

GTCNI

GTCNI closed its offices on 18 March until further notice.

Employment tribunals (England Wales and Scotland)

All in-person employment tribunal hearings from 23 March have been postponed and converted to telephone case management hearings.

Industrial tribunals and fair employment tribunals in Northern Ireland

Cases are being dealt with on a weekly basis, and parties will be contacted with arrangements. In-person cases will probably be converted to telephone hearings.

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11.  Independent schools

I run an independent school – how am I affected?

The government is asking independent and boarding schools to do the same as state schools and remain open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

More information about the financial support being offered to independent schools is available here

 

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12.  Working with parents and families

Where should I direct parents who have specific questions?

You should direct parents with specific questions about the role of schools to the government’s online advice or the DfE’s helpline: 0800 046 8687.

For medical related queries, parents should be directed to the NHS online page.

What if parents complain about how I’m handling the current situation?

It may help school leaders to have the outline of a prepared response if they receive complaints about how they’re responding to the current situation. The following may help with this:

“As I’m sure you will appreciate, we are currently dealing with a complex and rapidly changing situation. My priority will always be the health and safety of the pupils and staff in our school. Now more than ever, this remains our primary focus. Already in school, we have [insert measures taken so far].

“This is an entirely unprecedented situation, and we are following official advice from the government and public health authorities. We are monitoring and responding to that as it is published. This official advice will underpin all the actions we take.

“While I appreciate that there will be a wide range of different views about how we should be responding and what action we should take, I hope you will appreciate that I am duty-bound to follow the official advice and guidance from the government.”

What should I do if I think a parent or an employer is abusing the key worker list?

In the first instance, schools should explain to parents that they are unable to offer a place in their reduced provision and refer parents back to the government's guidance. Following this, the school may wish to refer the issue to the local authority.

In addition, NAHT has agreed to share any examples of aggressive or inappropriate letters received from companies with the DfE so that the government can take the necessary action. Please send any examples you have to policy@naht.org.uk.

What happens if families don’t send in vulnerable pupils?

The DfE guidance published on 22 March states the following: “Schools should work with LAs to monitor the welfare of vulnerable children who are not attending school, and other pupils they might wish to keep in touch with, for safeguarding purposes.”

The DfE’s safeguarding guidance issued on 27 March 2020 goes further:

  • Schools/colleges and social workers should be agreeing with families whether children in need should be attending education provision – and the school or college should then follow up on any child that they were expecting to attend, who does not. Schools and colleges should also follow up with any parent or carer who has arranged care for their children and the children who subsequently do not attend
  • In all circumstances where a vulnerable child does not take up their place at school or college or discontinues, the school or college should notify their social worker.

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13. Financial implications

What will the government’s reimbursement scheme for schools cover?

Update on 7 April 2020: The government has now published some initial guidance about how the reimbursement scheme will work.

NAHT is now seeking urgent clarification with regards to the specific details of the scheme including (but not limited to):

  • What is meant by the term ‘reserves’
  • Whether the cost of term-time only staff working in the Easter holidays will be covered by the scheme
  • Implications for schools using their own voucher scheme.

I employ breakfast/after school club staff, and/or catering staff, whose salaries are not funded by the government.  Can I ‘furlough’ them through the Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)? 

The government has provided updated guidance on whether mainstream state-funded schools can use the CJRS. 

In that guidance, it states the following: “We do not, in general, expect schools to furlough staff. However, we understand that, in some instances, schools may have a separate private income stream (for example, catering, sports facilities lettings or boarding provision funded by parents in state boarding schools). Where this income has either stopped or been reduced and there are staff that are typically paid from those private income streams, it may be appropriate to furlough staff. Schools should first seek to make the necessary savings from their existing budget or consider options to redeploy these staff before furloughing them. Only after all other potential options have been fully considered should schools furlough those members of staff and seek support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.” It then sets out a set of conditions that need to be met. 

Depending on how a school’s breakfast and after school club is funded, it could be that schools are able to use the CJRS. 

NAHT advises that each school determines whether its individual circumstances meet the conditions set out for access to the CJRS, and the school’s responsibilities to staff for roles where ‘furloughing’ may be in scope. Schools should take independent advice where required. 

HMRC has published a step-by-step guide for employers looking to access the CJRS. 

What about other forms of lost private income, such as lettings?

The government's guidance on this can be found here (under the heading ‘State-funded schools’).

What about maintained nursery schools? 

Currently, the government is treating maintained nursery schools in a similar way to other early years settings when it comes to finances. The relevant guidance can be read here

NAHT is aware of the serious concerns of members working in maintained nursery schools about this approach, and we are raising these with the government. 

Will high needs funding continue to be paid to schools? 

The government has stated the following: “Authorities will continue to receive their high needs budgets and should continue to pay top-up and other high needs funding so that the employment and payment of staff supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and those requiring alternative provision, can continue.” You can find further guidance on high needs funding here.

What are the implications for Schools Financial Value Standard (SFVS)?

On 3 April 2020, the government published guidance on the Schools Financial Value Standard. 

NAHT would highlight the following line: “During the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak, the Department for Education (DfE) has advised local authorities to exercise discretion on how and when they implement some of the usual annual requirements within their scheme for financing schools. One example for such use of discretion is the completion of the SFVS for the financial year 2019 to 2020. In making such decisions, local authorities should take full account of the current pressures on themselves and their schools.”

What about payments to suppliers?

Wherever possible, schools should continue to ensure that suppliers are paid as normal.

We recognise that this may become difficult if key support staff are not in school. In those circumstances, schools should consider the following:

  • Whether it’s possible for this to be done by someone from home using remote access to the school's systems
  • Whether another local school might be able to provide support remotely, eg advice on how to use a system or software
  • Contacting the finance team in the LA or MAT to explain the situation and request support
  • Contacting suppliers to explain if there might be a delay to any payments.

The government has published new information and guidance for public bodies, including schools, on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the current coronavirus outbreak.

The Cabinet Office has produced some FAQs to support contracting authorities to implement the guidance on payment for suppliers during the current coronavirus outbreak. 

What about independent schools?

The government has published the following guidance in relation to independent schools.

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14.  Governors

What is the role of the governing body now?

The NGA has published helpful advice for governors. This suggests governors should “establish a regular and manageable channel of communication between the school and governing board. In all probability, this will be overseen by the head teacher, chair of the board and clerk working together.”

The NGA has also published guidance on business continuity for governing boards.

The DfE has published the following advice for governing boards. 

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15. Press and media enquiries

What should I do if journalists or the media are interested in my school?

Journalists covering the covid-19 outbreak may well seek to contact you. This may be a simple call to ‘check how you are managing’ or it may be something more involved like asking you if you would allow a film crew on site. Clearly, this latter request is not essential business, and we would recommend that you politely decline, stating that you have other priorities at the moment.

You are under no obligation to help journalists; you have other priorities.

Where you already have a good relationship with local journalists, by all means, try to maintain these as far as is possible, in the interests of preserving that good relationship for the future.

If you are being asked about the government’s strategy or national policy to do with covid-19, it is best to refer journalists to the press section of NAHT's website.

In the case of any requests that you are not comfortable, or too busy to deal with yourself, please ask the journalist in question to email NAHT’s press team at press.office@naht.org.uk and we will assist them. You can also use this address to report any unwanted or persistent attention.

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16. Logistics and attendance recording

How should I record attendance during the period of reduced provision?

The DfE guidance on recording attendance can be found here

What if I receive an FOIA request during this period? 

There is nothing in the Coronavirus Act 2020 that enables modification of either the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, the ICO's website includes the following statement: “If you’ve made a Freedom of Information request from a public body or made a subject access request (SAR) for your own information, you should expect delays in response. That’s because organisations are diverting their resources to help with other challenges.”  

Further guidance can be found here.

What will happen to admission appeals at this time? 

On 14 April 2020, the DfE published the following guidance in relation to admissions appeals.

What are the expectations regarding standard data collections?

To help reduce the burden on educational and care settings at this time, the DfE and its agencies have cancelled or paused all but the most essential data collections, services and requests from educational and care settings until the end of June 2020. Further details about which data collections have been cancelled or paused can be found here.

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17. Report writing 

Update 22 May 2020 

Will we still have to write end of year reports?

The government has now updated its guidance on writing annual reports for parents. You can find the guide for head teachers here, and additional guidance for reporting at the end of KS1 and KS2 here.

The guidance is clear that schools should take a proportionate approach in deciding what information to include within their pupils’ reports. Schools should decide the appropriate level of detail required and take account of the availability of staff to write and prepare reports, as well as the information that they can reasonably access. Schools can also decide the most appropriate method by which to share reports with parents, which may be electronically.

The Department for Education (DfE) intends to remove the requirement to report pupils’ attendance data for the 2019 to 2020 academic year, in recognition of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the possible attendance. This change remains subject to the necessary legislation being made but you should assume that your report does not need to include pupil attendance data.

Reports must contain details of how parents can arrange a discussion about the report with their child’s teacher but the guidance recognises that it may be appropriate to delay these discussions and commit to providing details of how parents can discuss the report at a future date, or offering other options, such as telephone discussions.

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18. The role of local authorities, the hub model and vulnerable pupils

Who will be ultimately responsible for this? Is this for local authorities to coordinate or schools to plan?

The government’s advice states the following: “Local authorities are responsible for coordinating a response to the new arrangements. Working with education settings (including academies and the independent sector), they should use the critical worker list and the definition of vulnerable children to support schools and trusts to ensure that there is a sufficiency of places for children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

"Local authorities are also responsible for monitoring demand and capacity. This may involve working with schools to provide places in alternative settings if necessary and supporting residential special schools, alternative provision and other special settings to remain open, wherever possible.

"They are also responsible for supporting trusts and schools to assess the risks for children and young people whose education, health and care (EHC) plans they maintain and ensuring those children are safely cared for whether at school/college or at home.”

NAHT’s view is that while schools should work with their LA on local long-term strategic planning, where schools have put in place arrangements that are working well, LAs should not seek to change or overrule these. If you feel this is the case, we advise you to contact us. 

Do we have to offer places to all vulnerable pupils?

NAHT recognises that the government is encouraging vulnerable children and young people to attend educational settings unless they have underlying health conditions that put them at severe risk. 

We also note the following advice from the government: “There is an expectation that vulnerable children and young people will continue to attend educational provision, where it is appropriate for them to do so.” 

The government has set out guidance about supporting vulnerable children and young people during the coronavirus outbreak here

We know that, in some cases, schools provide a safe haven for these pupils and schools will want to do all they can at this time to support their most vulnerable pupils and families. 

However, schools do also need to balance the need to be able to operate in a safe manner and maintain safe practices, in line with their local risk assessments. 

These risk assessments will need to take into account a range of factors, including staffing levels, individual pupils' needs and behaviours as well as the unique circumstances and characteristics of the school and the school's premises. School leaders are best placed to make these judgements based on their unique knowledge of the school. 

The government’s guidance states the following: “We appreciate that decisions on attendance will likely be based on finely balanced discussions between the education provider, the parent/carer, and others, including social workers, local authorities, and other relevant professionals where applicable…Providers should make judgments with these partners about whether it is beneficial and appropriate for children and young people to continue to attend educational settings. In doing so, they may need to consider the balance of risk, including health vulnerabilities, family circumstances and the child or young person’s assessed special educational needs.” 

The number of vulnerable pupils will vary considerably between schools, and where the numbers are high, schools may need to consider an order of priority. For example, schools may need to initially prioritise those pupils who have a child protection plan, or who are a child in need. 

NAHT believes that conversations between local authorities, social workers and schools should be based on mutual respect and a sense of genuine partnership. 

It is a reasonable expectation that schools should engage with local authorities and social workers to consider the needs of vulnerable pupils, and they should try to find a placement for vulnerable pupils wherever it is safe and practicable to do so. 

NAHT expects that local authorities and children’s services should do the following: 

  • Engage in a genuine and open partnership with the school and take seriously any concerns that schools raise. They should work in a genuine partnership with the school to try to overcome particular challenges that they might be facing by offering practical solutions and advice where appropriate
  • Take into account the unique circumstances of each school, rather than applying blanket policies. There is a need to recognise that some schools are under significant pressure in terms of demand for places, especially special schools, and it may be a challenge to accommodate all of these
  • Be mindful of the challenges schools are facing in balancing the demand for places with the need to maintain safe working practices and social distancing measures. Schools can only offer places if it is safe for them to do so
  • Respect the expertise and knowledge of school leaders who have a unique knowledge of the school’s circumstances
  • Accept that proper planning needs to take place and it may take some time to put arrangements in place. LAs should recognise the pressures currently on school staff and provide realistic timescales for responses and risk assessments, especially where multiple risk assessments are required.  

 

What is NAHT’s view of the ‘hub’ model? 

Update on 27 April 2020: On 24 April, the DfE released updated guidance on this issue. The DfE guidance aligns closely with the original NAHT position outlined below.

The DfE has made clear that “public health should be a priority for all at this time and you should be alert to the fact that clusters and hubs may increase the public health risk. Moving staff, children and young people around may increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19) and significantly increasing the number of people in a setting will impact the practicality of social distancing….Provision through individual schools and settings, where possible, means fewer people in a single setting, less social contact and therefore a reduced risk of spreading the virus. It will also mean children and young people being supported by familiar staff in familiar settings at this unsettled time.

"Where schools and settings have no alternative but to close, for example, due to staff shortages, agreement to combine resources and ‘pair up’ with a neighbouring school or setting (or within a geographically close multi-academy trust) should be explored in the first instance.” 

NAHT’s position

NAHT’s view is that it is important to remember that the vast majority of pupils should be at home, including children of key workers where this is possible. 

Where there is no alternative, schools have been asked to provide childcare for a small number of pupils. 

NAHT believes that, wherever possible, children will be better off being cared for in small numbers by professionals that are familiar to them, in familiar surroundings. 

Where schools have set up arrangements that are working well for them and their communities, they should not be forced to abandon these for a ‘hub’ model. 

NAHT recognises that some schools may decide to enter into a ‘partnership’ with another local school/schools to ensure that provision can continue to be offered. For some schools, such as very small schools, this may be the only option available to deliver the reduced provision.

However, we have a number of concerns about the use of large-scale, centralised hubs where large numbers of pupils and staff are gathered in one space. Our primary concern is that such an approach appears to not be in line with the government's advice on social distancing. Concentrating a higher number of pupils and staff in a single space, and creating a need for greater travelling for children, parents and staff does not appear consistent with the government’s overarching approach. 

Clearly, schools should continue to engage with their local authority and discuss long-term contingency planning should school closure continue for some months and should local offers start to become unsustainable due to staffing shortages. 

In enabling critical workers to continue to perform essential services and to provide care for vulnerable pupils, NAHT, drawing on the government's and public health advice, suggests there should be a clear order of preference: 

  1. Childcare at home wherever possible: this remains the best advice for everyone to limit the spread of the virus
  2. Reduced provision (in small numbers) at the usual school: fewer pupils, in more schools, following public health advice strictly, is likely to be the next best option for protecting the health of pupils and school staff and reducing the spread of the virus
  3. Attend a neighbouring school: some schools, particularly very small schools where extremely small numbers of children are registered for provision, have already taken the decision to work together in this way, sharing staff where appropriate. This ensures that travel to and from school remains limited, thereby limiting risk from unnecessary travel, and where this is not possible, schools should work with the local authority to make arrangements for pupils to:
  4. Attend ‘hub’ provision. More pupils in fewer schools presents an increased risk of spreading the virus. Where amalgamating provision beyond neighbouring schools is absolutely necessary, ‘hubs’ should be as numerous as is practicable to avoid crowding and located within the local communities that need their support to avoid unnecessary travel.

Schools that are being asked to join larger hubs may want to consider posing some of the following questions: 

  1. How will social distancing be possible in a hub approach? What measures have been taken in this regard?

  2. What is the rationale for putting more children and staff together in one place?

  3. How will transport be arranged and how will these arrangements take account of social distancing?

  4. Will there be written confirmation that all staff working in different settings will be fully covered by insurance?

  5. What arrangements have been made for social services to support this model?

  6. Has a safeguarding policy been written to support this approach?

  7. Have parents been consulted?

  8. What considerations have been made for pupil and staff well-being? What is the rationale for taking pupils out of familiar settings with familiar staff and putting them in unfamiliar settings with unfamiliar staff?

  9. What are the line management arrangements for the arrangement?

  10. Who will be responsible for working out the staffing rotas, holiday cover, etc?

  11. In what way is the current model not working well? And why does this need to happen now?

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19.  Supporting pupils, families and colleagues during the coronavirus crisis 

Should we be routinely contacting pupils and families at home?

While schools will need to be carefully monitoring the well-being and safety of vulnerable pupils in-line with the government guidance, there is no obligation for schools to be in regular contact with all pupils and families via phone or email, and in many cases, this will not be possible

The joint union advice that has been agreed by NAHT, NEU and ASCL states:  “Teachers should not be asked to personally contact individual students on a daily basis, except where they have agreed with their head teacher a system to contact vulnerable children and families. Teachers should not use personal phones or emails for this contact. It is extremely important that all schools remind their staff and pupils of their policies for safe internet usage and review whether any specific changes to the policy need to be made to take the new circumstances into account.”

A daily phone call is likely to place unreasonable workload demands on teachers and will be hard for schools to sustain.

However, we know that as schools have got used to this new way of working, many have put in place arrangements for less frequent ‘touch points’ with families and pupils.

Where schools choose to do this, we would advise a clear policy is established explaining the rationale for such contact and providing guidance for any teachers undertaking these calls or emails. Such a policy should cover:

  • A clear protocol for the calls or emails outlining expectations in terms of what should and should not be discussed, as well as roughly how long the calls should last.
  • Whether the teacher is expected to speak with the pupil or parents or both.
  • A clear process for reporting any concerns as a result of the calls, including referral to the DSL where appropriate.
  • The record-keeping expectations following any calls or emails.
  • Clear communication with parents in advance about the expectations and rationale for such contact.
  • How the policy will be reviewed and updated based on the feedback of teachers.
  • Clear advice on safe practices, this could include:

           o Not using personal phones and/or withholding phone numbers.

           o Not using personal email addresses

           o Clear guidance on the use of video technology – NAHT recommends that audio calls should be used                rather than video calls. 

How can I best support pupils, families and colleagues during the coronavirus crisis? What sources of support are available to me? 

NAHT has developed a separate piece of advice on this topic for members, which you can access here.

In addition, our colleagues at Education Support have produced a series of useful videos aimed specifically at supporting school staff during the coronavirus. 

Where can I access support for my own 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 that's counselling, CCBT or signposting the caller to additional services. 

Education Support Partnership’s contact details are as follows: 

t: 0800 917 4055 

w:educationsupportpartnership.org.uk

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20. SEND 

What is the impact on EHCPs?

The DfE has published guidance on temporary changes to education, health and care legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

It outlines that some aspects of the law on education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans are changing temporarily to give local authorities, health commissioning bodies, education settings and other bodies who contribute to these processes more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by coronavirus (COVID-19).

What about annual reviews?

The government guidance referred to above provides more information about this, but in summary:

As of 1 May 2020, the annual review requirements remain in place.                                                                          

However, the government has legislated to provide extra flexibility for local authorities over the timing of these reviews. Where it is impractical for a local authority to complete an annual review of a plan within the prescribed timescales for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), then the local authority must complete it as soon as reasonably practicable.

The government has said that annual reviews may, in the current circumstances, need to take a different form. However, it is important that they continue to ensure that the child or young person is at the centre of the process and can engage with the process in a meaningful way. A review meeting, even if by necessity briefer than usual, can be reassuring for parents, children and young people, through ensuring that their EHC plan is up-to-date so that they can receive appropriate provision.

The guidance states that: “it may be appropriate to use a simpler format to gather information electronically and to hold the meeting by phone or as a virtual meeting. Professionals contributing to the review may need to base that on the information already available and discussion with the family as they may not be able to meet the child or young person. While meetings might take a different format, they should still involve all the key professionals wherever possible.”


21.  What is NAHT’s position on school reopening?

NAHT has now produced a separate advice document on this topic. You can find that here. 

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22.  Additional questions

I am currently studying for an NPQ, what are the expectations around completing the course in the current situation?

This is, of course, a busy and challenging time and you may not, therefore, feel able to engage in professional development courses at the moment. 

The Department for Education has confirmed that no one should feel they have to complete their course, and participation is down to the individual.  

Given the current situation, the Department has confirmed an extension of the time to complete NPQs from 18 months to 24 months. This extension is being kept under review and could be extended further if required. This extension applies to all participants, not just those at the end of their qualification. 

Providers will continue to be able to grant deferrals in line with their individual deferrals policy. The length of deferral will depend on the circumstance and should be agreed with the provider directly.  

I am close to submission but am missing a few required elements (eg a sponsor’s signature). What should I do?

For those who are ready to submit but are missing a few required elements (eg a sponsor’s signature) or wish to continue using alternative mechanisms, we suggest that you speak with your provider in the first instance. In these situations, providers have been advised that the Department for Education and the QA agent will consider these applications on a case-by-case basis.

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23. How we can help

If you’re an NAHT or NAHT Edge member and need further support, call our advice team on 0300 30 30 333 (select option one) – we’re here to support you.

If you would like to join NAHT or NAHT Edge, please call our membership team on 0300 30 30 333 (select option two) – we look forward to hearing from you.

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First published 19 June 2020