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.
If the LFT test is undertaken at a public testing centre or in a school/college test site, there is no need for a PCR test to confirm the result. Positive LFT tests conducted at home do require a confirmatory PCR test 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.
What should I do if a pupil in my class or a colleague I work with tests positive for COVID-19? (England/Wales)
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.
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.
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.
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?
There are different arrangements in place for those in Tier 4 areas and those in all other areas.
For Tier 4 areas, the Government has published advice and guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV). This advice states that persons living or working in Tier 4 areas should not go into the workplace.
The NASUWT is seeking confirmation from the DfE on the implications of this announcement for staff in schools. Further information and advice is available on our Advice for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Members in Tier 4 page.
For members working in areas in all other Tiers, the existing Government advice Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from Covid-19 continues to apply.
‘Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible. As a general principle, working from home reduces the chance of you being exposed to the virus…If you cannot work from home, you can still go to work in all tiers. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work’.
For clinically extremely vulnerable people, the guidance reaffirms that shielding has been paused, but may be reintroduced in certain circumstances, stating, ‘We may advise more restrictive formal shielding measures for the clinically extremely vulnerable in the worst affected Tier 3 areas, based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer. This will only apply to some Tier 3 areas, and the government will write to you separately to inform you if you are advised to shield’.
You should ask your employer for an individual risk assessment. If you have already had a risk assessment, this should be revisited in light of increased transmission rates of Covid-19 and the new Guidance for Education and Childcare Settings issued on 5 November.
The NASUWT is continuing to call on the Government to take extra measures for those teachers who are clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable.
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.
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?
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:
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.
There is no automatic right or generic rule that a woman in the third trimester should work from home, however, Similarly, no generic policy can preclude or prejudice this being a measure which is deemed most appropriate to minimise risk to that woman. Each case should be risk assessed on an individual basis and it is the process of the risk assessment itself which will determine the measures required.
If you have any questions or require any support with this specifically, please speak to your workplace rep or email the MSA Team if you work in England or the Scotland National Centre if you work in Scotland.
Any member at any stage of their pregnancy should ask for an updated individual risk assessment where their workplace moves into Level 3 or Level 4 of the Scottish Government Framework.
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:
- Covid-19 - Advice Note on Supporting Members with Childcare Responsibilities September 2020 (England) can be found on our England Covid-19 - Autumn Term page.
- Covid-19 - Advice Note on Supporting Members with Childcare Responsibilities September 2020 (Scotland) is on our Scotland Covid-19 - Autumn Term page.
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 already in place? (England)
If you had not already booked a holiday prior to the announcement of a quarantine requirement on those returning from abroad and you do so now knowing that you may not be available to work in school at the start of the term, you could face significant difficulty with your employer, unless you have raised this 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 advise you to seek the view of your employer before making any bookings which would 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.
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 widely available. 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. No school is expected or encouraged to allow testing to take place on site;
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 are not able to mandate the use of masks but can ask that they are worn by pupils in certain circumstances set out in the DfE’s guidance. However, the wearing of masks can be mandated in some circumstances in schools in areas subject to local lockdowns;
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.
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.
Schools should be seeking to minimise teachers’ movements across the school and between groups of pupils to reduce the risk of virus transmission and these are activities that could be easily removed to reduce transmission risks.
My school is continuing with classroom observations of teachers. Is this safe in the context of Covid-19? (England/Scotland/Wales)
Notwithstanding the issues relating to Covid-19, schools should have an agreed policy on classroom observation, agreed with the NASUWT, which incorporates the NASUWT’s policy on classroom observation.
In the context of Covid-19, schools should risk assess every activity, including classroom observation, to ensure that staff movement between different groups of pupils is kept to the absolute minimum to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
If classroom observation is deemed to be essential, then the risk assessment should highlight the measures in place to ensure, for example, social distancing by the person conducting the observation from the teacher being observed and between the observer and the pupils.
The number of observations and the number of teachers and pupil groups these cover should also be risk assessed.
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.
In addition, Government guidance published on 4th November 2020 to come into effect on 9th November 2020 states that ‘face coverings should be worn by adults and children aged 11 and above when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms or activity rooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.’
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.’
Additionally, the Health and Safety Executive has stated explicitly that ‘If people choose to wear face coverings in work, you [the employer] should support them.’ Further guidance from the HSE on face masks and coverings can be found at HSE Face coverings and face masks during the coronavirus outbreak web page.
The NASUWT does not accept the argument put forward by some employers that pupils will feel intimidated by teachers wearing face coverings. Masks and face coverings are now extremely commonplace, being worn in supermarkets, on the street, and on public transport.
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, if the teacher wants to have a face covering, by the use of the transparent visors, which the school should then provide.
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.
Teachers who choose to wear a face mask or face covering, where it is not required by their job, must make their own provision and have a responsibility to ensure that:
- they wash their hands in soap and hot water before putting on the mask and after removing it;
- they do not touch their face while wearing the mask and if they do it will need to be replaced;
- if it is removed while in the workplace, it must be immediately bagged and disposed of safely – at no time should it be left on any surface in the workplace;
- if masks become damp during the day, they should be replaced;
- masks/face coverings should be changed/replaced regularly.
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.
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.