Following persistent lobbying from NAHT and others, the government has now published its long-awaited 'plan b' outlining the approach it will take should there be a need for further school attendance restrictions.
It was obvious weeks ago that such advice was necessary. The government's decision to publish this at 9pm on the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend before most schools are due to return is nothing short of reprehensible. It demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the well-being of school leaders and their teams. The decision confirms the government simply does not understand the commitment and professionalism of school leaders who will feel compelled to act immediately.
We went through the guidance last night, and it is unlikely that you will need to take urgent action over the weekend. With all schools currently deemed to be at what the government is calling 'tier one' (open to all pupils), there is no immediate rush to abandon your bank holiday plans. After all, you have worked throughout the pandemic and a great deal of the summer.
I am sure that when you do get a chance to read through the new guidance, many of you will want to share with us your thoughts about the approach government is proposing should further restrictions on schools be required.
As always, we are keen to hear from members so that we can represent your views faithfully to the government. If you wish to do so, you can simply reply to this email, and we will incorporate your views into the feedback we provide to the DfE. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reply to every response, but rest assured they will be read and considered. If you need advice on a specific issue, as always you can contact our specialist advice team (call 0300 30 30 333 and select option one).
The DfE also chose last night to update its more general guidance for a return to school in September. Again, we would suggest returning to these updates next week. The team at NAHT has already been through the new changes and updated our FAQs accordingly.
However, there are perhaps two important changes regarding face coverings we would like to draw members' attention to:
- As anticipated, the DfE is now taking a more permissive approach to staff in primary schools using face coverings. This means that in primary schools in communal areas where social distancing is not possible, head teachers will have the discretion to decide whether to ask staff or visitors to wear face coverings. Similar to our advice to secondary school staff, if you can't maintain social distancing in communal areas and corridors, it would be prudent for primary schools to ask staff to wear face coverings in these areas unless there is a compelling reason not to. Erring on the side of caution would seem a sensible approach to take given the information coming out of the World Health Organisation. Please note, this does not apply to primary pupils
- The updated transport advice now states: "In accordance with advice from PHE, from the autumn term, we recommend that local authorities advise children and young people aged 11 and older to wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport."
We will continue to work through these latest updates over the weekend and ensure that the advice on our website reflects these new changes.
First published 29 August 2020