Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last night of strict new curbs on movement outside of the home, the Department for Education has confirmed that schools should remain available for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers who are unable to make alternative childcare arrangements.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, has written to all members this morning, with an update. He says:
“We know that the vast majority of schools opened yesterday offering reduced provision. Our survey showed that most schools operated with fewer than 1 in 4 teaching and support staff present.
“Having heard the Prime Minister speak, many colleagues will be rightly concerned for loved ones and understandably anxious about the personal risk of simply going to work. It would not be surprising to find, in the absence of clear government advice on keeping safe, that fewer colleagues are willing or able to work today than yesterday.”
In recent days, school leaders and their teams have shown almost infinite reserves of resourcefulness to patch together local solutions. At the same time, NAHT has been in dialogue with the Department for Education and supporting our members directly, to help schools make the government’s expectations deliverable.
Mr Whiteman continued: “Our work with the DfE is productive but we need a step change in the detail of advice given to schools now. Our focus will be to reiterate the need for schools to be given clear guidance on how to keep pupils and staff safe.
“It is absolutely vital that we have sight of the expert medical evidence on safe levels of attendance and density, and are provided with practical advice on the protective steps we should be taking in schools.
“From masks or other PPE, to distancing children from each other, to sufficient supplies of soap and hand sanitiser, schools urgently need answers to their questions about effective safety measures.
“We also need the government to provide further guidance for special schools and those providing Alternative Provision as we know many of these are currently open to a higher percentage of pupils.
“School staff know that they are taking a risk by reporting to work, against advice given to the rest of the population to stay at home. It is only right that this is a choice informed by hard evidence regarding the degree of risk involved.”
Mr Whiteman promised to keep NAHT members informed about the outcome of today’s efforts. On social media and on email, NAHT’s members have been saying that NAHT’s daily updates and advice have been extremely helpful in dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on schools.
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