Contractual issues/school opening (updated May 2021)
8 March return to school
Coronavirus symptoms/diagnosis
Test and Trace
Risk assessment/PPE
 

Contractual issues/school opening

What arrangements should be in place for gained time this summer? (England, Wales)

The NASUWT is clear that gained time this summer should only be used for the specified purposes set out in its existing guidance for members in England and guidance for members in Wales.

The core principle to be applied in determining appropriate used of gained time is that teachers should not be directed to activities during this time which do not require the skills and abilities of qualified teachers and so enable them to focus on tasks which enhance teaching and learning.

In determining arrangements for the use of gained time this summer, it is important to take into account the extraordinary circumstances in which teachers and school leaders have been operating since the Covid-19 outbreak. In particular, the NASUWT expects every school to take all possible steps to address the exceptional workload pressures that staff in schools are continuing to experience at this time.

The Union’s strong advice is that gained time should be prioritised to allow teachers and school leaders to focus on tasks and activities related to the awarding of qualifications given their importance and the need to ensure that they are undertaken effectively and manageably.

There should be no expectation that qualifications and awards activities that may otherwise be undertaken during gained time be undertaken in the teacher’s own time or during the summer closure period.

Any remaining gained time will need to be allocated to tasks according to the identified priorities of the school and the use of this time should be the subject of consultation with the NASUWT and workload impact assessed.

Particular note should be taken of the fact that gained time is often used to support activities that are important to the operation of schools in the coming academic year, such as revising schemes of work, renewing and updating curriculum resources, planning pupil assessments or developing staff training and support materials.

Any workload impact assessment will need to take account of the workload implications of allocating gained time away from these critical tasks to a later date. If doing so would add to teacher and school leader workload burdens, such practices would not be regarded as acceptable by the NASUWT.

The NASUWT’s existing advice and guidance makes clear that taking groups of pupils to provide additional learning support is not, of itself, an inappropriate use of gained time. Such activities could include providing curriculum support to pupils entering Key Stage 5 in 2021/22. However, the NASUWT remains clear that there are likely to be other, more appropriate, priorities for the use of this time.

Schools failing to prioritise the use of gained time to support awarding or the production of learning-related materials for use in 2021/22, should be challenged as they may not be taking all possible steps to reduce the workload burdens faced by teachers and school leaders in line with the NASUWT’s expectations.

I am planning to take my holiday abroad later in the year/early next year. What is my position on return to the UK if it results in me being unable to go to work at the start of term due to quarantine restrictions? (England)

The Government currently advises only travel to green list countries. However, this list can change at very short notice and if a country moves from green to amber or red, quarantine will be required on return.

If you book a holiday to an amber or red list country, you now do so knowing that you may not be available to work in school at the start of the term and you could face significant difficulty with your employer, unless you have raised it with them in advance and been granted written permission to work from home during any period of quarantine on full pay. Your employer is under no obligation to agree this.

The NASUWT would strongly advise you to seek the view of your employer before making any bookings, even to current green list countries, which could lead to you being unable to return to the workplace at the start of the term/half-term.

If you make the booking without speaking to your employer, you should be aware that there may be pay and contractual implications if you are unable to be available for work during term time.

My school wants to adjust the timetable. What is the NASUWT’s advice?

Any changes to the timetable should be done in consultation with affected teachers, be for sound educational reasons and be consistent with the school’s risk assessment. Contractual entitlements such as the minimum 10% PPA time must also be adhered to.

I am approaching the third trimester of my pregnancy. What should I do? Do I have a right to work from home? (England/Scotland)

Any woman approaching the 28-week mark of her pregnancy should seek an updated and revised individual risk assessment to minimise risk in the workplace.

Although there is no automatic right or generic rule that a woman in the third trimester should work from home, schools MUST follow the specific Government advice for pregnant employees.

Pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions at any point of gestation, may be at greater risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. This is also the case for pregnant women with underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus.

As part of the school’s risk assessment, employers should consider whether adapting duties and/or facilitating home working may be appropriate to mitigate risks.

Further guidance on RCOG’s web page Coronavirus infection and pregnancy is also recommended by the Government.

My child has been sent home from school because another pupil has tested positive for Covid-19. I now have a problem with childcare. What can I do? (England/Scotland)

The NASUWT has produced advice notes for members in this position which set out the actions you can take:

What should my school do if it receives pro forma letters setting out stipulations by parents/carers about our Covid-19 safety measures?

The NASUWT has become aware of advice for parents circulating on social media about schools&#rsquo; control measures in relation to Covid-19.

The advice often includes a model letter that parents are encouraged to send to schools about these control measures or other related matters confirming that they wish their children to be exempt from them. The letter makes a number of points that appear to be based on a misunderstanding of the control measures that schools are expected to have in place.

The letter includes requests that the school does not:

  • administer a Covid-19 vaccine to the sender’s child/ren. At present, Covid-19 vaccines are not available for children. In addition, if one does become available for school-age children, it is not yet clear how it will be distributed. These will be matters for the Government to determine. Schools have established routines for the organisation of vaccines administered on school sites, including on issues related to parental consent, that should continue to be followed;

  • allow Covid-19 tests to be administered to the sender’s child/ren on site. Schools can only administer tests with the consent of parents;

  • require the sender’s child/ren to use hand sanitiser on the basis that it poses inherent health risks. The Government’s guidance on control measures approves the use of hand sanitiser, although it is clear that its use should be supervised with young children. Hand sanitiser is often an important element in a school’s approach to securing good hand hygiene alongside access to soap and running water. Where a child has a particular sensitivity to the use of hand sanitisers and has been medically advised not to use them, alternative hand hygiene measures should be in place;

  • use a forehead temperature sensor on the sender’s child/ren. Public Health England’s advice is clear that schools should not routinely subject pupils to temperature checks of any kind.

  • wish schools to participate in the NHS track and trace scheme by sending personal data to the NHS. The current arrangements for track and trace do not involve schools sending personal data to the NHS;

  • want schools to mandate the use of masks for their child/ren. Schools should follow the latest DfE guidance in relation to face coverings;

  • detain a pupil without consent. Schools will have well-established procedures around the circumstances in which pupils can be detained. Schools do not need the consent of a parent to make use of detention as a behaviour management strategy although they are expected to ensure pupils’ safety when detentions are used. This responsibility is usually discharged by informing parents that a detention has been issued;

  • subject the sender’s child/ren to any measures for which parental consent has not been given. Schools should always be prepared to reassure parents that they will not act without parental consent in respect of any measure for which such consent must be obtained by law.

Any member concerned by parental inquires received by a school on the issues covered above, should seek advice and support from the NASUWT.

My school’s plans for wider opening mean that I will be required to stay with a group of pupils all the time, including breaks and lunchtime. Is this acceptable?

Teachers are entitled to a reasonable lunch break and other breaks away from the pupils.

A number of schools, to minimise the risks of spreading the virus, are seeking to ensure that staff and pupils stay in specific closed groupings for all the time that they are on the school premises. That is an acceptable and sensible arrangement, providing that the staffing for each group has been calculated on the basis that each member of staff can have breaks, including lunch breaks, away from the pupils, in another area of the premises.

If teachers remain with pupils at all times, they are not having a break, regardless of how the time may be designated. If no provision has been made in the schools plans for breaks away from the pupils, then this should be raised with your headteacher with a request for the arrangements to be amended to allow breaks away from pupils.

If this is not addressed, contact the NASUWT for further advice.

As a teacher who provides specialist support to pupils in different settings, should I be expected to carry out my duties in the usual way?

I am a peripatetic teacher and provide specialist support to pupils (e.g. with a visual impairment, hearing impairment, speech and language difficulties, an autistic spectrum condition) in different settings. This includes me visiting different schools and settings, and in some instances, visiting children at home. Should I be expected to carry out my duties in the usual way?

Your employer has a statutory duty to ensure your health and safety. This includes addressing health and safety matters arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. They must also ensure that they comply with equalities legislation and employment law.

Your employer should undertake a health and safety risk assessment in order to identify any potential risks arising from the work that you do. The risk assessment should take account of public health and advice guidelines relating to COVID-19.

Your employer must consult widely as part of the risk assessment. This must include consulting the workforce, and so workforce unions, the health and safety representative and other employers where you may work in order to ensure that health and safety measures are in place. This means that your employer must consult each of the schools and settings that you attend.

The employer should identify all risks and take action to mitigate those risks. This should be consistent with government advice which stresses the importance of minimising contact between different people and stopping all but essential contact.

In the case of peripatetic teachers, therefore, your employer should establish whether the work being carried out is essential. If it is essential, then the employer should consider whether it would be possible for you to carry out the work differently. For instance, could you undertake the work remotely using appropriate technology? Could somebody in the school, setting or household support you to deliver the support remotely? The employer may need to provide you and the child or setting with appropriate equipment and may need to provide training to enable the equipment to be used properly.

If it is absolutely essential for you to provide direct support to children by attending a school, setting or home, your employer must put in place measures to protect you and avoid transmission of COVID-19. This should include arrangements to maintain social distancing and minimise contact with different people. If it is not possible for you to carry out essential responsibilities and maintain the 2-metre social distancing rule, then NASUWT advice is that your employer should provide you with personal protective equipment (PPE). Your employer will also need to ensure that arrangements are in place to clean equipment and settings before and after use.

If you are classed as extremely clinically vulnerable, you should not work outside your home. Government advice is that people who are clinically vulnerable should also work from home. In these instances, your employer should make arrangements for you to undertake work from home. They must not expect you to undertake work outside your home, particularly work that involves visiting different settings.

Contact the NASUWT for advice if you have any concerns about your work arrangements, including concerns that your employer has not undertaken a risk assessment or taken action to mitigate risks and concerns raised.

8 March return to school

I am over 40/50/60 and do not want to attend work until 21 days after my vaccination so that I have some protection. Can I ask to work at home during this time? (England)

The Government has made no provision for teachers based on their age to remain at home irrespective of their vaccination status.

The employer should, however, undertake a current and adequate risk assessment and have implemented the appropriate mitigations prior to any staff being required to return to the workplace.

If staff members are at higher risk due to their age, ethnicity, health or a pregnancy, the risk assessment should be an individual one which takes account of their personal circumstances and the specific risks, which need to be mitigated.

I work closely with a colleague who is anti-vaccination. Where does that leave me and what are my rights in this situation? (England)

The current government advice makes it clear that the vaccination status of a workforce has no impact on the Covid-secure guidelines employers must follow.

Your employer should adhere to its health and safety obligations and explain how it intends to meet its obligations fully.

It should be noted that vaccination primarily gives protection to the recipient, not others, and the evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission is limited.

Can my employer insist that I have the vaccine or take any action against me if I refuse? (England)

Vaccination is not mandatory. In the absence of it becoming a legal requirement, an employer cannot force an employee to be vaccinated without their consent.

Vaccination without consent could amount to the criminal offence of assault and battery and could contravene an individual’s human rights.

An employee who was compelled to obtain the vaccine and who suffers and adverse reaction may bring personal injury proceedings against the employer.

The Acas guidance suggests that a refusal to be vaccinated could, in some situations, result in a disciplinary procedure. However, this would depend on whether:

  1. it was required by the employer’s workplace policy;

  2. vaccination was necessary for an employee to do their job;

  3. the employee’s reason for refusing the vaccine might be protected under the Equality Act 2010.

The Acas guidance also advises that employers should support staff in getting the vaccine, but cannot force them to be vaccinated. Therefore, your employer would need to be extremely careful in taking any action against you.

Can the employer ask me to disclose whether I have had the vaccine? (England)

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance states that employers should respect its duty of confidentiality to employees and should not routinely disclose vaccine status among colleagues unless it has a legitimate and compelling reason to do so.

Some employers may attempt to justify their reason for asking by contesting that the request amounts to a reasonable management instruction on the basis that it is a request intended to protect health and safety. However, as this is information about the employee’s health, under the GDPR, it is deemed to be special category personal data. Therefore, your consent to the request to disclose your personal data is necessary.

It is also important to ask the employer how it proposes to process this vaccination data (including your personal data) in accordance with the GDPR - what personal data is required, who will it be shared with, how long will it be kept for, and what decision will be made based on the data held.

The Government does not regard vaccination as one of the essential covid control measures that employers must implement. Other control measures, such as social distancing, PPE, and hand hygiene must be maintained and in this context, there is no relevant need for the employer to know the vaccination status of an individual.

Whilst my employer has given me a choice about having a vaccine, I have been told I won't receive full pay if the school closes due to Covid-19 if I choose not to. Where do I stand legally/contractually? (England)

I have been asked to get a covid vaccine by my employer. Whilst they have given me the choice, I have been told that I won't receive full pay if the school closes due to covid if I choose not to have a vaccine, but I would if I'm vaccinated. Where do I stand legally/contractually?

Depending on the employee’s personal circumstances, requiring an employee to be vaccinated without their consent as a condition of providing work or be paid in full could amount to a repudiatory breach of contract. It could be indirectly discriminatory against certain protected characteristics and a breach of the employee’s right (if in a local authority school) under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In addition, allowing only vaccinated employees to return to the workplace and be paid in full could potentially lead to indirect or direct age discrimination claims by younger employees, although both direct and indirect age discrimination can be justified.

A vaccination requirement may be difficult to justify on health and safety grounds. Although vaccination reduces the chance of the vaccinated individual becoming ill, the extent to which vaccination reduces transmission is still under review.

The current advice is clear that vaccination is not a substitute for workplace covid-secure measures, which the employer must continue to comply with.

Is there any further update on the vaccination programme for teachers? (England)

At present, no plans to vaccinate teachers have been released by the Government and consequently a timetable to this end has not been published.

The NASUWT continues to take a leading role in pursuing the Government to prioritise the vaccination of teachers through our Vaccinate 2 Educate campaign.

Further details of the campaign, and how to get involved, can be found via the link above or by using the hashtag #vaccinate2educate on social media.

I feel very anxious about a return to work. What advice do you have? (England)

The NASUWT recognise that some members may still experience high levels of anxiety about returning to work even where the employer has all the control measures in place.

We have therefore prepared a reference guide and operational guidance for members summarising our key advice on what you should do to prepare for your return to the workplace on our 8 March Operational Guidance page.

Where do I stand if I do not wish to wear a face mask? (England)

The Government guidance states that from 17 May, staff should wear face coverings in communal areas where social distancing is not possible, including corridors and staff rooms, although the reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, students or staff may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern.

An employer who has implemented a rule or policy on face coverings in accordance with the official guidance, any relevant legal requirements, and its own risk assessments will usually be able to rely on the implied duty for employees to follow lawful and reasonable orders as the legal basis for those requirements.

However, specific objections should be considered on a case-by-case basis. If the reason that the employee refuses to wear a mask is medical and they can provide evidence of this, it is unlikely that an employer can treat this as a failure to obey reasonable instructions.

If an employer intends to require employees to wear face coverings, it should provide a suitable supply of face coverings and guidance on how to use them safely, in the same way that it would with any other workplace safety equipment.

I do not feel comfortable wearing a mask and would prefer to wear a visor. Where do I stand? (England)

The Government guidance states that from 17 May, staff should wear face coverings in communal areas where social distancing is not possible, including corridors and staff rooms, although the reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, students or staff may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern.

Visors have been shown to have extremely limited, if any, effectiveness on their own and the Government is advising against the use of visors without a face covering.

As to having a preference for one form of PPE over another, the guidelines suggest that where employers already use PPE (e.g. a face mask) to protect against non-Covid risks, they should continue to do.

Most of the guidelines on PPE also suggest that, when managing risk of Covid-19, additional PPE beyond that already used will not be beneficial (an exception is made for those providing close contact services, e.g. hairdressers or barbers). This is because the risks posed by Covid-19 need to be managed by other mitigations such as social distancing, hygiene etc.

I do not understand why I am required to pay for my own masks. Doctors and nurses do not pay for theirs, so why should I?​ (England)

School/college employers are expected to provide a contingency supply of face masks for use by staff and/or pupils who may require access to a face mask and in order to comply with their obligation to maintain essential control measures at all times.

It is worth noting that if the employer’s risk assessment shows that PPE such as a face mask is required, it must be provided free of charge to employees who need it.

Home tests are voluntary. How do we know that testing is being carried out at home? (England)

Testing is only one part of the public health strategy to prevent the spread of the virus and does not change the need for school/college employers to follow all other specified control measures.

It is correct that home tests are voluntary and the guidance, including Acas guidance, on testing only applies to workplace testing.

Additionally, information about an employee’s ‘voluntary’ testing status would amount to personal data under GDPR. Therefore, in the absence of the employee voluntarily disclosing this information, it would be difficult to know whether they have carried out testing at home and we do not believe that the employer can compel the employee to disclose this information.

It is, however, worth noting that, as with employers, employees have health and safety responsibilities at work to:

  • take reasonable care for their health and safety and that of anyone who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work;

  • co-operate with their employer as far as is necessary to enable compliance with any statutory duty or requirement relating to health and safety.

Therefore, an employer may consider it appropriate to remind an employee of their duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of their colleagues in this respect.

It should be noted that testing has a significant false negative rate and therefore must not be relied upon as a control measure.

Irrespective of test status, all other control measures must remain in place.

With regard to ventilation and air conditioning, what is the minimum and maximum temperature in the learning environment? (England)

Guidance on ventilation can be found on our Ventilation and Covid-19 web page.

The law states, in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, that employers have a legal obligation to provide indoor workers with a ‘reasonable' temperature in which to work.

At the upper end, there is no set maximum temperature level, but the ‘reasonable’ test still applies. Humidity, air velocity and the radiant temperature become more important factors than temperature alone, hence more complex investigation is needed to determine what is ‘reasonable’.

At the lower end, the Approved Code of Practice informs that temperatures of at least 16 degrees Celsius should be achieved in indoor working environments where rigorous physical effort is not required. (Please note specific lower limits exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.)

In attempting to provide adequate ventilation, there is a real possibility that some working environments have become unreasonably cold. This should be brought to the attention of the employer.

The adjustment of indoor heating systems to be on for longer periods of time and/or at higher temperatures, the availability of alternative classrooms, and permitting all occupants to wear warmer outdoor clothing are all options to be explored by the employer with a view to maintaining a comfortable learning environment alongside the mitigations needed for covid security.  

It is important to note that health and safety law underpins any guidance by the Government.

Can schools reduce or split lunch breaks, for example from 55 mins to 30 mins? (England)

School management should set a timetable at the start of the year which is unvaried and should only be altered for sound educational reasons and with the agreement of the staff and the NASUWT.

However, in the current climate of changing Government guidance to mitigate the risk of Covid-19, it would be reasonable, subject to consultation and agreement, for schools to make operational changes for the health and safety of staff and pupils, which may include an alteration to start and/or finish times and time allocated for lunch and break times.

Notwithstanding the above, the total amount of directed time for a full-time teacher remains 1,265 hours per academic year (pro rata for part-time staff). Additionally, a teacher should not be expected to supervise or undertake any other non-directed time activity during their lunch break, including attending meetings.

All staff should have a break of ‘reasonable length’ between the hours of 12pm and 2pm such that it is a meaningful time. If an employer reduces a break length to less than 30 minutes, or you feel you may be being discriminated against because you have a protected characteristic and a change has resulted in less favourable treatment, we would encourage you to contact the NASUWT for further advice.

What if schools are refusing to offer/administer lateral flow tests? (England)

The Government has made it clear that it expects all schools, including independent schools, to offer lateral flow device tests (LFTs) to staff and secondary schools to pupils also. This includes supply teachers and all other temporary staff.

Thus, schools that refuse are in breach of Government guidance and potentially health and safety legislation by not doing everything reasonably practicable to ensure the health, safety and welfare of teachers and pupils.

Any schools refusing to offer LFTs should be urgently reported to the NASUWT.

What if there is a shortage of staff in some schools? (England)

Teachers are not expected to cover for absent colleagues and neither are they expected to teach pupils who they have not been assigned to teach, i.e. pupils who are not registered for timetabled lessons with them.

The management of the school should plan for staff shortages and take appropriate action to ensure the health and safety of all employees and pupils are not compromised, such as they would normally.

A key element of this planning should involve the use of supply staff to address any shortages of permanent teaching staff.

Does the 2m distance still apply in the classroom? (England)

Yes. Government guidance is that everyone, including the vaccinated, must continue to follow social distancing guidance wherever possible whilst in school, continue to wear a face mask where required, and wash their hands thoroughly frequently.

Employers are also required to continue to follow the applicable covid-secure guidelines until further notice.

The fact that face masks are now not compulsory in classrooms or employees have been vaccinated will not affect this.

Whose responsibility will it be to audit/assess lost learning and what should members be expected to do or not in this matter? (England)

I am concerned that with potentially 120 pupils who have missed lessons, I will be expected to assess and address the situation as an individual.

All teachers have a responsibility to plan, teach and assess the work of pupils who they have been assigned to teach. They are not, however, required to audit attendance, nor are they required to work outside the limitations of their contracts to support catch-up or other education recovery activities.

It is inevitable that due to pupils having been taught remotely through blended learning, the learning experience of pupils will have varied greatly and as such their attainment will be affected to varying degrees. For this reason, the NASUWT is clear that emphasis will need to be placed in the early stages of return on diagnostic assessment to ensure that teachers can plan learning activities that address the implications of the pandemic on lost learning.

School management will need to evaluate how they propose to address this, as the directed time of all teaching staff remains at 1,265 hours with an additional requirement to work ‘reasonable additional hours’ to fulfil their professional responsibilities.

It would be unreasonable for a teacher to have to work excessive additional hours to assess detailed levels of attainment and to subsequently differentiate delivery of the curriculum accordingly.

Any teacher who feels that their workload requires them to work an unreasonable number of additional hours should contact the NASUWT for further advice and support.

I have concerns about assessment of pupils' work and the validity of this moving forward. How can this be challenged by teachers? (England)

If pupils have not engaged in lessons, teachers may be eventually asked to award grades that are not reflective of a pupil’s progress. This could have a real impact in the future.

While the DfE has set out the broad parameters of the approach to awarding qualifications this summer, the technical detail of the requirements on centres are the subject of ongoing discussion and consultation.

Throughout its engagement with the DfE, Ofqual and the awarding bodies, the NASUWT has been clear that ensuring that centres are able to make consistent, valid and reliable assessments through unambiguous externally set criteria is essential.

It is for this reason that the NASUWT was disappointed that the option of making awarding body set assessments mandatory in most cases was not adopted.

Nevertheless, the Union will continue to press for arrangements that ensure that centres are supported in undertaking assessments in a fair and objective manner.

Would it be reasonable for members to ask to see specific measurable and scientific data on airflow/CO2 etc. from an employer where they have concerns? (England)

The HSE has set out clear scientific guidance on airflow, identifying specific airflow volume and carbon dioxide levels, yet all the schools risk assessments we are seeing extend to nothing more than the ‘windows and doors to be opened’ with no scientific basis at all. Would it be reasonable for members to ask to see specific measurable, scientific data on air flow/ CO2 etc, from an employer where they have concerns?

The NASUWT's full guidance on ventilation can be found on our Ventilation and Covid-19 advice page.

The HSE has advocated the use of CO2 monitors and these can be purchased relatively cheaply. Therefore, schools should be making use of these.

It is not necessary, however, for every room to be equipped, but monitors should be available if concerns are raised. It should be noted, however, that CO2 monitors do not work where active filtration is in place, as the virus will be removed from the air regardless of the CO2 concentration. This does not remove the need for adequate ventilation, however.

CO2 monitors do not measure airflow directly, but if they are utilised and demonstrate poor air quality, this should be raised with school management as a matter of urgency.

If members' concerns are not being acted upon, they should follow the guidance on raising health and safety concerns on our How to Address Health and Safety Concerns web page.

How should headteachers be expected to comply with the requirements relating to staff illness, financial and building constraints? (England)

Leadership members should abide by all Government/local authority/academy trust advice and guidance and should contact the LA/academy trust or governing body/proprietor should they have concerns.

If leadership members cannot meet all our requirements, what should they do? (England)

Headteachers/principals are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the pupils and staff in the school.

If they believe the situation is unsafe, they are required, under health and safety legislation, to take reasonable steps to ensure safety. This may include closure of the site in extreme circumstances, such as insufficient staff.

They should take advice from the local authority/employer if they believe the school to be unsafe.

What advice is being given to leadership members about dealing with parents who refuse to comply with control measures whilst on site? (England)

Where a parent refuses to follow reasonable instructions pertaining to health and safety, the importance of this should be emphasised and the consequences of continued refusal explained.

As headteachers are responsible for taking all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health safety and welfare of pupils and teachers, this may include applying restrictions on the parent’s use of the school site.

Qualified teachers who are supply teachers are being asked to go in to help supervise mass testing of pupils. How should they be paid? (England)

When undertaking an assignment, supply teachers should agree the specific duties that they are expected to undertake, including the rate of pay that they will receive, irrespective of whether they are employed directly through a school, employed through a local authority supply pool, or working through an agency/umbrella company.

For supply teachers working directly through a school, the school pay policy would be the starting point for any discussion regarding the rate of pay, as most schools reference the daily rate for short-notice teachers when undertaking any work, often referencing paragraph 42.2 of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

It should be noted that the same provisions identified above apply to those supply teachers employed through a local authority supply pool.

For those supply teachers working through an agency/umbrella company, they will be employed through an overarching contract of employment, which should specify the rate of pay to be received.

It should be noted that supply teachers working through an agency are covered by the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations which specify that the agency worker and the agency must agree the type of work to be undertaken and the agreed rate of pay in the overarching contract and this can only be varied by agreement when an agency offers day-to-day supply work.

Before undertaking any such work, a supply teacher must be satisfied that they have read and understood the school’s risk assessment and be satisfied with the mitigations in place.

Should supply teachers be given a copy of the school’s risk assessment? (England)

Yes. Supply teachers have a vital role to play in raising and maintaining high educational standards in schools.

Detailed advice and a checklist for supply teachers on staying safe during the full reopening of schools from March 2021 can be found on our Covid-19 Advice page.

The NASUWT is clear that before undertaking an assignment, a supply teacher must be given adequate time to ensure they have read and understood the school’s risk assessment and are satisfied with the mitigations in place.

What is the NASUWT doing to ensure that Ofsted takes into account the impact of the pandemic when inspecting schools in the future? (England)

Future arrangements for inspection beyond the limited additional monitoring inspection being conducted currently have yet to be finalised and are the subject of ongoing consultation with the NASUWT and other stakeholders.

The Union has remained clear that the resumption of inspection must reflect the fact that schools will be focused on education recovery and that it would be inappropriate for inspection to detract from this work.

The NASUWT has also made clear that important changes to the inspection framework introduced in September 2019, including a strong focus on teacher and school leader workload and wellbeing and more intelligent and proportionate use of pupil performance data, will be particularly important features of a fit-for-purpose, post-pandemic approach to inspection.

How can we respond to requests from senior leadership to be Ofsted-ready and for continued practices such as lesson observations happening at this time, both in remote live lessons and in the classroom? (England)

Assertions that lesson observations are essential to ensure that schools are ‘Ofsted-ready’ are entirely unnecessary and highly inappropriate.

Ofsted has no expectation that schools conduct such activities and its long-standing view that schools should not prepare for Ofsted inspections, including the limited additional monitoring inspections being undertaken currently, remains in place.

Further guidance on these inspections and how schools should respond to them is available on our Ofsted Inspection page.

What is the NASUWT guidance and advice regarding teacher-awarded grades for summer 2021 qualifications? (England)

The arrangements for awarding grades this summer have yet to be finalised.

Once these details are confirmed, the Union will publish advice and guidance for members.

However, the NASUWT’s position is clear that the priority in the early stages of the full opening of schools and colleges will be supporting education recovery and on teaching and learning. Schools should not seek to pre-empt the confirmation of assessment details before they have been published.

Will secondary teachers need to be available on results day (9 August) if there are any appeals? (England)

The NASUWT is continuing to make strong representations to the Government and the regulator on the appeals process and this concern is central to the issues it is raising.

The DfE has set out a clear commitment that the awarding process must not have an adverse impact on the workload and working conditions of teachers and school and college leaders and the Union will be continuing to hold the Government to this commitment.

Some schools are asking staff to teach live remotely at the same time as in class. Is it correct that this can be refused? (England)

The NASUWT’s advice remains clear that it is not appropriate for a teacher to teach a class of pupils face-to-face and for the lesson to be streamed live so that pupils who are at home can watch the lesson and possibly participate in that lesson remotely.

Such an approach raises significant issues for data protection and privacy and places unrealistic demands on the class teacher who will be trying to juggle teaching face-to-face with remote teaching and learning, including possibly managing issues related to pupil behaviour in the classroom and/or online.

What representations regarding workload and catch-up measures for leadership members are being specifically made at national level? (England)

The Union has made clear that education recovery cannot be done on the cheap or at the expense of teachers, school leaders and support staff in schools who are already working around the clock.
 
The NASUWT is continuing to insist that education recovery cannot be based on trying to squeeze more out of a teacher and school and college leader workforce that is already at breaking point as it continues to deal with the unprecedented and exceptional challenges of the pandemic.

The Union has called on the Government to commit to recruiting substantially more staff to provide an ambitious programme that will deliver the education recovery that all children and young people deserve.

In addition, the Union has pressed the DfE for assurance that all education recovery programmes will be designed and implemented in a way that respects the full range of teachers’ and school and college leaders’ statutory and contractual employment rights.

Are lesson observations and drop-ins acceptable when schools fully open? (England)

The DfE has made it clear that adults should only move from group to group for the purposes of delivering the timetable or other specialist provision.

This does not allow for observations and drop-ins and these should not be occurring.

How should schools manage staff members who are suffering from long covid? (England)

The NASUWT would expect employers to take a sympathetic approach to employees suffering from long covid, particularly where this leaves them unable to work.

Sick pay should apply as normal and an occupational health assessment should be undertaken in order to ascertain whether they are disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. If they are, they should be afforded the protection from disability discrimination and consideration must be given to any reasonable adjustments that can be applied to assist a return to work.

Employers will further need to risk assess any return to the workplace to ensure that it is safe for the individual.

The NASUWT is aware of many employers who have taken the decision to discount Covid-19 absences for the purposes of sickness absence. As such, the Union believes that employers should adopt the same approach in respect of any teachers diagnosed as suffering from long covid.

Any absence procedure introduced by your employer must be applied fairly, consistently and must not be discriminatory.  It is unacceptable for an employer to dismiss an employee by dismissing a long covid condition or perceiving that the condition is a figment of the member’s imagination.

If a member is subjected to this treatment s/he must contact the NASUWT for assistance.

Teachers may have contractual sick pay enhancements in circumstances where an infectious disease is contracted in the workplace, but given the difficulties in establishing where infection occurs, this is unlikely to apply in instances of long covid, especially as it usually requires a doctor to certify that infection occurred within the school.

Any member who thinks they may be suffering from long covid should seek medical advice from their GP in the first instance.

If your condition is severe enough to qualify as substantial, although there is no requirement to inform your employer, particularly if you are attending the workplace, the NASUWT advises that you declare this to put your employer on notice of the possibility that you may satisfy the legal definition of disability under the law and any protection that follows.

If you are not at work, your employer should be keeping in touch with you, but not pressurising you to return or send in work. An occupational health assessment may be useful and you should consider requesting one.

If your employer has commenced action against you, under their absence management procedure, you should request a copy of the procedure/policy if you have not already been given one and contact the NASUWT immediately for advice and support.

Coronavirus symptoms/diagnosis

A teacher has tested positive via a lateral flow test. Should the school be taking any action? (England)

A positive lateral flow test (LFT) means the person and their household must self-isolate for at least ten days, unless a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result is obtained.

All positive LFT test results must be confirmed by a PCR test, irrespective of where the test was taken, and the person testing positive via LFT should arrange for a PCR test as soon as possible.

If the PCR test is negative, then the person and their household can stop isolating. Although LFTs are not as accurate as PCR tests, they tend not to give high numbers of false positives.

The DfE has confirmed that a positive LFT test must be treated in the same way as a positive PCR test, irrespective of where it is carried out, and schools must respond accordingly by isolating close contacts, etc. until the PCR test result is received.

What should I do if a pupil in my class or a colleague I work with tests positive for COVID-19? (England)

Schools have been told not to disclose the identities of people testing positive for COVID-19.

However, the school should have contacted immediately on learning of a positive test the dedicated advice service for advice on the action to be taken. They will conduct a rapid risk assessment and identify the appropriate next steps. With support from the Health Protection Team (HPT), the school will identify the close contacts of the individual who has tested positive. Contact tracers will inform contacts that they need to self-isolate. 

If you are aware of the person’s identity, and you believe you are a close contact (i.e. been closer than 2m for 15 minutes or closer than 1m for any length of time, other than transitory contact) but have not been told to self-isolate, you should alert the headteacher/principal, who should then take advice from the relevant authorities.

If your school has appropriate COVID-19 secure practices in place, all adults in the school should have been distancing and if the 2m distancing has been maintained with your colleague, then the risk is minimal. Teachers are advised, where possible, to maintain distancing with pupils, if distancing has not been maintained with the pupil in your class then you need to ensure that the school is aware of this.

If you have downloaded the NHS Test and Trace app, you may get an alert from this with advice on what action to take.

A pupil in my class was displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and was sent home. What should I do? (England/Scotland)

There is no need to take any action until the outcome of the pupil’s test is known.

If the pupil tests positive, follow the advice in the FAQ below on what action to take if a pupil or colleague tests positive for Covid-19.

What should happen if a pupil or staff member begins to exhibit Covid-19 symptoms whilst in school? (England/Scotland)

The school should have clear procedures for this, detailed in the risk assessment. As a minimum, the NASUWT would expect any staff member to be sent home immediately, avoiding touching anything.

In the case of pupils, the individual concerned must be isolated in a well-ventilated room with supplies of tissues and a self-closing bin until collected.

If no room is available, they must be kept at least 2 metres from anyone else. Anyone who needs to attend to them must be provided with full personal protective equipment (PPE), including a mask, apron and gloves, and preferably a visor.

Any rooms used by those who have exhibited symptoms must then be deep cleaned by suitably trained cleaners.

The parents of pupils with suspected symptoms must be informed to obtain a test for their child as soon as possible, either through the online portal or by calling 119.

Staff with suspected symptoms must also be informed to obtain a test through the online portal for essential workers. There is guidance for this on the NASUWT website.

In addition to testing, those with symptoms should be advised to self-isolate for seven days. Their household members should self-isolate for 14 days.

The DfE web page Guidance for full opening school – The system of controls: protective measures has further guidance on this issue.

A pupil/staff member has tested positive for Covid-19. What should the school do?

Following a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, the rest of their class or group, including the staff, should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 10 days.

The confirmed case must not return to school until ten days have elapsed since the onset of symptoms/positive test result and must remain in isolation until any fever ends if this is longer than ten days. There is no requirement to have a negative test before returning and the PCR test can give false positives for some time after infection due to residual, non-infective viral proteins. 

Those self-isolating due to being a close contact must do so for ten days. Other people living in the same household do not need to self-isolate unless the self-isolating person becomes symptomatic, in which case the whole household would also need to self-isolate.

If any of the staff or pupils in the group have mixed with any other groups, this would also apply to those groups.

The DfE web page Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak has further guidance on this issue.

Does the school need to close if there are positive cases?

Guidance from the Department for Education states that, 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 of the school and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take.

In some cases, a larger number of other children and young people may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure - perhaps the whole class, site or year group.

Should the school inform staff of any positive cases?

The Department for Education has stated that schools should keep staff, parents (and pupils where appropriate) informed about cases in the school.

My school says it cannot tell us about cases in the school due to data protection rules. Is this true?

Recent guidance from the Information Commissioner on the issue of testing in the workplace is that schools do not need to name individuals and should not provide more information than is necessary.

Schools have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of their employees and pupils. Data protection and the rights of data subjects do not prevent them from doing this and any positive cases should be disclosed.

What advice is there for the clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable in relation to working from home?

Clinically vulnerable (CV) and clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) staff are advised by the Government that they can continue to attend the workplace.

CV and CEV staff should have an individual risk assessment which is regularly updated in consultation with the member.

CV and CEV staff should also ensure that any additional advice they have received from medical practitioners on managing Covid-related risks are incorporated into their individual risk assessments.

The employer would also need to consider potential discrimination issues and other risks, if it is proposing to follow the Government guidance, as the ultimate responsibility for decisions on the safety and wellbeing of employees rests with the employer.

Test and Trace

My school has told me to turn off the NHS Test and Trace App whilst I am in school. Is this right? (England)

Some schools appear to be instructing staff (and pupils) to turn off the app’s tracking function whilst in school to prevent it finding contacts and increasing the numbers of staff self-isolating.

This is a wholly inappropriate course of action, as the app is designed to complement existing public health measures.

The Government’s guidance encourages the use of the app in schools and states there are only three occasions where the tracking facility should be disabled whilst at work:

  • when the phone is left in a locker etc.;
  • where the person is shielded from others behind a plastic screen; or
  • in the case of healthcare workers, none of which apply for teachers in schools.

Schools that insist on disabling the app are undermining efforts to reduce transmission and, while it may reduce the numbers self-isolating in the short term, it risks significantly increasing them in the longer term, as a larger outbreak is a distinct possibility.

Members who are instructed to disable the app in school should object to this and if the school continues to insist contact the NASUWT for further advice.

Can my employer require me to download the NHS Test and Trace app? (England)

No. The use of the app is voluntary and employers cannot force employees to use it.

Employers can distribute information about the app and advise employees about the NHS COVID-19 app information website.

I have received contact from the NHS Test and Trace app which tells me that I have to self-isolate for 10 days. Do I have to follow the information on the app or the advice from my employer? (England)

If you receive information on the app, you must follow the information you are given on the app. This is part of the Government’s public health Test and Trace Strategy and therefore takes priority over any local advice.

If you are told that you will need to isolate for 10 days, then you must do so. If your employer queries this, you are able to obtain an isolation note to give to your employer. This service is available on the NHS website, which sets out who is eligible to receive the isolation note and how to access one. There is also a facility for employers to check the validity of the isolation note.

While you are self-isolating, you should continue to receive your normal pay and you should make clear to your employer that you are available to work from home. There is no need to obtain a fit note or to go on sick leave as you are not sick.

You do not need a COVID-19 test if you are not showing symptoms, unless directed to do so by a medical professional. If you develop coronavirus symptoms while you are self-isolating, then you must take advice using the NHS website, NHS 111, or through the Test and Trace App.

If you have no symptoms at the end of the 10 days, you do not need a COVID-19 test and can stop self-isolating.

Please ensure that you have reviewed and are familiar with the NASUWT Guidance in the Union’s Coronavirus Hub.

Below is an extract from the Government’s FAQs on the use of the Test and Trace App which you may find helpful.

Extract from the UK Government FAQ from the Government’s website
What should I do if the app tells me I have been near someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you've got an alert telling you that you've spent time near someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, then you will have to say at home for 10 days. It can take up to 10 days for symptoms to appear. People in your household will not need to isolate unless you develop symptoms.

If you develop coronavirus symptoms during this 10-day period, follow the guidance about what to do.

If you do not develop symptoms after 10 days, you can stop self-isolating. You will not need a coronavirus test. You should continue to stay alert and follow the latest government advice.

An isolation note is proof that an employee has been told to self-isolate because of coronavirus and therefore cannot go to work.

Isolation notes are for employees who:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus;
  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus;
  • are in a support bubble with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus;
  • have been told to self-isolate by a test and trace service.

Employees who cannot work because of coronavirus should avoid asking their GP for a fit note. This is to let doctors focus on their patients.

Working from home

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, you should encourage your employees to work from home, wherever possible.

If an employee is well enough to work, and can work from home, they do not need an isolation note.

Get an isolation note

Use this service if you have been told to self-isolate because of coronavirus and you need a note for your employer.

This service is only for people who:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus;
  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus;
  • are in a support bubble with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus;
  • have been told to self-isolate by a test and trace service.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, stay at home and get a coronavirus test.

If you need medical advice about your symptoms:

Risk assessment/PPE

A number of activities my school is planning to run, such as PTA meetings and open days, seem unnecessary at a time when everyone should be seeking to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission. What is the NASUWT view on this? (England/Wales)

There are a number of activities my school is planning to run, such as PTA meetings and open days, which seem unnecessary at a time when everyone should be seeking to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission. What is the NASUWT view on this?

Whilst many schools have made great efforts to make their premises as COVID-19 secure as possible, all too often the measures put in place are being compromised by the continuation of some pre-COVID-19 activities, working and other practices.

The key tests schools should be applying to any activity are:

  • Is it essential and if so why?
  • Has it been risk assessed in consultation with staff and unions?
  • Does it breach the bubble or group arrangements and general COVID-19 arrangements in the school?
  • Does it require teachers to come within 2m of any other adult?
  • Will it breach the Government COVID-19 restrictions, including the rules on social contacts?

Where members have concerns about the necessity and safety of any activity in the context of COVID-19, they should raise this with their headteacher/principal and seek advice from the NASUWT if concerns remain.

Are learning walks and drop-ins allowed at a time when schools are trying to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus? (England)

The NASUWT has clear advice on learning walks and drop-ins and members should ensure that they are following that advice.

The safety issues relating to Covid-19 transmission far outweigh any educational or professional value of learning walks or drop-ins.

DfE guidance states that ‘all teachers and other staff can operate across different classes and year groups to facilitate the delivery of the timetable and specialist provision. Where staff need to move between groups, they should try and keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can, ideally 2 metres from other adults.

This does not include learning walks and drop-ins and therefore they should not be occurring.

My school is continuing with classroom observations of teachers. Is this safe in the context of Covid-19? (England/Scotland/Wales)

The NASUWT has clear advice on classroom observation and members should ensure that they are following that advice.

The safety issues relating to Covid-19 transmission far outweigh any educational or professional value of observations.

DfE guidance states that ‘all teachers and other staff can operate across different classes and year groups to facilitate the delivery of the timetable and specialist provision. Where staff need to move between groups, they should try and keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can, ideally 2 metres from other adults.

This does not include observations and therefore they should not be occurring.

My school is intending to take trainee teacher placements this year. Is this appropriate in the context of Covid-19 arrangements? (England/Scotland/Wales)

There is no reason for trainee teachers not to have their school placements as usual this year.

However, the ITT/ITE providers will clearly want to be assured through a risk assessment that the settings in which trainees are placed have taken all reasonable steps to safeguard the safety of the trainees.

Schools who wish to accept placements will need to carry out a risk assessment, in consultation with staff, particularly those who will be providing the in-class support, supervision and mentoring and ensure that there are measures put in place for the health and safety of all parties.

After a risk assessment, it was decided that as a Black teacher I should work from home. Some of my colleagues are now implying that I have ‘chosen’ not to go into work and I feel very isolated. What should I do? (England/Scotland)

As a Black teacher, I asked for a risk assessment and it was decided that I should remain working from home. My headteacher and some of my colleagues are now implying that I am ‘choosing’ not to go into work and I feel very isolated. What should I do?

Given the scientific and medical evidence about the impact of Covid-19 on Black communities, you are understandably anxious and concerned and did exactly the right thing in asking for a risk assessment, the outcome of which was that you should remain working from home.

It is not only disappointing that your headteacher and some of your colleagues are reacting in this way, but it also is unacceptable.

It is as a result of scientific and medical evidence relating to the impact of Covid-19 that you are in this position and no employer, manager or work colleague should be unsympathetic to actions being taken to protect the health and welfare of any member of staff when they have been identified as being at risk. By allowing such attitudes to go unchallenged, your employer is failing to discharge their legal duty of care for you and is putting at risk your health and wellbeing as a result of the increased stress and anxiety you are facing.

The NASUWT will have no hesitation in challenging employers who fail to tackle these unacceptable and discriminatory attitudes.

I wish to wear a face covering/mask at school, but my headteacher has said I must remove it. Can they do that? (England)

The NASUWT’s position is that any teacher who wishes to wear a face covering or face mask should be allowed to do so and that it is unreasonable for an employer to prevent them from doing so.

Government guidance states that teachers should wear a face covering in all circumstances where 2m social distancing is not possible, such as in corridors and staff rooms.

Teachers have a right to take action to protect themselves and others under the Employment Rights Act 1996 which states, ‘An employee has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that...in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.’

The Union does accept that there may be some special circumstances where there are pupils who need to be able to lip read in order to communicate with the teacher, but believes that this can be overcome, such as through the use of a face covering with a transparent panel.

However, if members choose to wear a face mask or face covering they should be aware that it is considered only to be beneficial as a protection for others and not themselves and is no substitute for social distancing and other hygiene measures to control virus transmission.

My employer is using the risk assessment guidance produced by BAMEed. Am I able to engage in this process?

My employer is using the risk assessment guidance produced by BAMEed as I have expressed anxiety about returning to the workplace given the scientific and medical evidence showing the disproportionate adverse impact of Covid-19 on Black communities. Am I able to engage in this process?

The NASUWT is aware that a number of employers are now referring to the BAMEed risk assessment guidance in relation to their Black staff. The NASUWT supports the work of BAMEed and the guidance is a helpful tool, identifying a number of key issues to be considered.

It is not, however, an exhaustive list which will cover the circumstances of all individual members and some employers are using a points score system alongside it which again can disadvantage members.

NASUWT members are strongly advised, therefore, not to place their total reliance on their employer’s use of this tool and ensure that they follow, in full, the specific advice the Union has issued for our Black members.

This includes making sure that you have:

  • followed the NASUWT’s self-audit checklist and the actions advised in that checklist;
  • read the NASUWT guidance and other FAQs on risk assessments and are aware that risk assessments are the responsibility of the employer and therefore should not be co-authored or signed as being agreed by members to avoid compromising your legal rights and entitlements;
  • sought advice from the NASUWT directly if you have any concerns about your return to work in the context of Covid-19.

The risk assessment indicates a mask should be worn when undertaking certain tasks, including dealing with suspected cases. Should the mask comply with any standards? (England)

In high-risk circumstances (such as dealing with a suspected case), FFP3 masks that are clearly CE marked should be used.

In lower risk circumstances, an FFP2 mask may suffice, but must also be CE marked. If in doubt, an FFP3 mask should be used.

For masks to be effective, the wearer must be clean shaven and the mask fit tested and members should bear this in mind when undertaking tasks where a mask is required.

Where  close contact with pupils is required and this has been risk assessed and PPE is provided, it should be noted that  wearing  a clear visor without a mask is not appropriate. PPE should either be a face mask or a clear visor and a face mask.

My headteacher is requiring me to sign the risk assessment which has been produced for me. Can I do this?

You should not be asked to sign that you agree to the risk assessment and should not do so.  Risk assessments are the employer’s responsibility.
 
It is not unreasonable, however, for a headteacher to ask a member of staff to sign to say they have received the risk assessment but that should be clear on the document you are signing.  The NASUWT would expect the following, for example, to be on the document, ‘I confirm that I have received a copy of the school’s risk assessment.’
 
If there is just a space for a signature and no explanation of the reason for the signature, then either refuse to sign or write on the document, ‘I am signing to confirm that I have received a copy of the risk assessment.’
 

Staff at the school where I work have been asked by the headteacher to sign that we agree with the risk assessment which has been carried out on the school’s plans for wider opening. Is this appropriate?

The risk assessment is the responsibility of the employer, not of any employee, including the headteacher.

Whilst employees should be consulted on the risk assessment and may feel that it addresses their issues of concern, signing it is neither necessary nor appropriate and could compromise your legal rights and entitlements should problems arise.

Will the NASUWT be signing risk assessments produced by the employer?

The NASUWT is seeking to engage with employers to consult on the risk assessments of their plans for wider opening of schools.

For maintained schools, the Union is engaging with local authorities and for MATs with trusts, as these overarching bodies are the employer and, therefore, have the legal responsibility for the risk assessments in the schools in the local authority or trust.

The NASUWT will advise employers about any deficiencies in the risk assessments to seek to have them addressed. The Union, however, cannot agree to a risk assessment, as that could compromise the legal rights and entitlements of members. It is for the Union to comment on the risk assessment and it is for the employer, who has the legal obligation, to ensure that the risk assessment is competent.

Can I send the risk assessment my school has produced on its plans for wider opening to the NASUWT for the Union to check and sign it off, so that I and other members in the school can feel reassured that the risk assessment is appropriate?

Members can always seek advice and support from the NASUWT on any issues of concern.

Where you and other members are concerned about your school’s risk assessment of the plans for wider opening:

  • make a note of all the issues in the risk assessment which cause you concern and raise these with your headteacher. Employees have a legal obligation to highlight directly to their employer any concerns they have about their health and safety at work;
  • if the response you receive does not address members’ concerns, then send the response from your headteacher, together with a list of members’ concerns about the risk assessment, and a copy of the risk assessment, to your NASUWT Local Secretary for further advice and support.