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? (Northern Ireland)

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 allowed within DE guidance?
  • 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.

My school is continuing with classroom observations of teachers. Is this safe in the context of COVID-19? (Northern Ireland)

Notwithstanding the issues relating to COVID-19, schools should be operating within the PRSD policy which has been agreed between all school employers and the NASUWT.

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? (Northern Ireland/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.

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

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 Public Health Agency (PHA), 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 StopCOVID Test and Trace app, you may get an alert from this with advice on what action to take.