Reviewed and updated August 2021

PPE/face masks and coverings
Risk assessment measures
ASN
Cleaning and hand hygiene
School buildings
Equality
Advice for teachers in vulnerable groups, including pregnancy
Childcare
Pupils/staff with Covid-19
Supply/trainee teachers
Curriculum and learning
Health and safety
Remote education and contingency planning
 

PPE/face masks and coverings

I do not want to wear a mask whilst teaching as it impacts on teaching and learning. I have heard the guidance is not statutory so I don’t have to? (Scotland)

The Government guidance updated in August 2021 sets out clearly when adults and pupils have to wear a face covering (with limited exceptions).

  • Face coverings should be worn by adults wherever they cannot keep physical distance with other adults and/or children and young people;
  • Face coverings should also be worn in the following circumstances (except where an adult or child/young person is exempt from wearing a covering):
    • at all times when adults in primary schools are moving around the school in corridors, office and admin areas, canteens (except when dining) and other indoor communal areas, (including staff rooms and toilets)
    • at all times for all staff and learners in secondary schools (including special schools and independent and grant aided schools); and
    • in line with the updated arrangements for public transport, where adults and children and young people aged 12 and over are travelling on dedicated school transport.

While we appreciate that may cause concern regarding the ability to deliver effective teaching and learning,  your safety and that of other members of the school community has to be the absolute priority. If you are unable to wear a face covering on medical or health grounds, you need to discuss this with SLT and reasonable adjustments agreed where necessary.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools is non-statutory guidance provided by the Scottish Government to employers. However, there is a clear expectation from the Scottish Government that employers will comply with the guidance. The non-statutory nature of the guidance does not change your need to comply with the guidance where it is implemented by the employer. The guidance around face coverings should be incorporated into updated risk assessments.

There is a legal and contractual duty on you to comply with health and safety measures at work. Deliberate or persistent failure to comply with health and safety measures is a potential disciplinary offene regardless of whether the guidance is statutory.

Some pupils in the senior phase are still refusing to wear face masks and the headteacher says they are unable to do anything about this. What is the NASUWT position? (Scotland)

The Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools issued August 2021 maintained requirements regarding the wearing of face masks.
The guidance is clear that:
As is usual, if there are any concerns about a child or young person behaving or acting in a way which doesn’t align with school policy or procedure, their behaviour or actions should be discussed with them to resolve those concerns as quickly as possible, with any further action taken in line with usual school policy or procedure.  If all approaches to resolve the concern with a child or young person in relation to health and safety measures have been exhausted then exclusion could be considered as an appropriate measure, but only as a last resort.  “Included, engaged and involved part 2: preventing and managing school exclusions”, provides national policy guidance on the use of early intervention and prevention to promote positive relationships and behaviour.

Any behaviour management/positive relationships policies should have been reviewed as part of the risk assessment process to ensure that deliberate non-compliance with Covid mitigation measures by pupils was addressed. Where significant issues with pupils not complying with wearing face coverings in corridors has arisen, NASUWT's advice is for reps to request a meeting to review the risk assessment and to have clear mitigation measures in place, including use of the behaviour management policy.

Where a pupil is refusing to wear a mask in a classroom and does not have an exemption, the following steps should be taken:

  1. The pupil should be reminded of their requirement to wear a mask to minimise risk to themselves and others.
  2. If they refuse to comply, the school behaviour management policy should be followed in terms of notifying management of an incident and assistance required in a classroom. Whilst awaiting the attendance of SLT, you should instruct the pupil to wait in a place which minimises risk to you and others - the back of the classroom, the corridor etc.
  3. The member of SLT should be advised that you have the right not to be placed at imminent danger from Covid-19 and the deliberate refusal of a pupil to wear a face covering places you in imminent danger. You should ask the member of SLT to either persuade the pupil to comply or to remove them from your class.
  4. If management refuses, you need to consider whether in the circumstances this places you, in your opinion, in clear and imminent danger. Only you can determine this and the situation will vary based on your own health circumstances, where the pupil is usually seated in the class and their response to your instructions. If you do believe that you are in imminent danger, you should contact the NASUWT immediately.
  5. You should complete an NASUWT incident reporting form, update the school rep and the school rep should ask for a meeting to update the risk assessment.
  6. If you are dissatisfied with the response of senior management, contact the NASUWT Scotland Centre.

Should all visitors be made to wear masks on entering a school building? (Scotland)

Yes - all adult visitors to any school site should be wearing a face covering.

Should support teachers and staff who work in close proximity with pupils wear PPE? (Scotland)

Government advice on PPE

Where staff are asked to physically support, assist or restrain pupils, schools should provide staff with appropriate protective clothing, gloves and other protective equipment.

Do I have the right to wear a face mask or visor if I want to? (Scotland)

Any teacher who wishes to wear a face covering or face mask should be allowed to do so and it is unreasonable for an employer to prevent them from doing so.

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 this can be overcome with the use of transparent face coverings which, if they are a requirement for the pupil’s benefit, should be provided by the employer.

Members 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 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 safely disposed of - 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.

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

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. Members should bear this in mind when undertaking tasks where a mask is required.

Specific guidance relating to PPE is contained within the Government guidance for education and childcare settings, and anyone requiring the use of specific PPE should be given training in how to use it safely.

Is PPE essential for ASN schools where biting and spitting are frequent occurrences? (Scotland)

The first step must always be to undertake a risk assessment which should cover the use of PPE in such circumstances.

Risk assessment measures

I am concerned that my employer is not taking measures to protect my health and safety at work. (Scotland)

The NASUWT is clear that no teacher should be expected to go into a school that is not safe and until it can be demonstrated that it is safe to do so, we will be continuing to support and advise members on that basis.

Members should raise with their employer in writing any concerns they have about their health and safety in the workplace and then contact the NASUWT for further advice if these issues are not immediately addressed.

Where schools are allowing pupils to have break/lunch in classrooms, who should be expected to supervise pupils during this time? (Scotland)

Supervising pupils during lunch time or break is not part of a teacher’s contractual duties. While teachers may volunteer to undertake such tasks, this cannot be required, unless it is agreed to use time in the ‘other’ time of the WTA.

Schools should ensure their risk assessment covers the provision of appropriate breaks for teachers away from the pupils.

What should I do where my headteacher says it is impossible to ‘social distance pupils’ and that all that can be done is to ‘advise and try to enforce while keeping ourselves safe’? (Scotland)

The school’s behaviour policy should be reviewed to ensure that it is clear what action will be taken against pupils who fail to follow instructions and requirements relating to social distancing.

The school has a responsibility to enforce the measures that it has put into its risk assessment and if these cannot be maintained, then this is a failure to address the hazard.

NASUWT members should contact the Union for advice where problems arise in maintaining social distancing.

Some of our pupils are ‘runners’. What protections can I put in place for them and the staff? (Scotland)

It is important that pupils who are known to run out of class have their own individual risk assessment and also that this is factored into the school risk assessment.

I have been told children cannot socially distance in P1 and P2 due to a play-based approach. Is this correct? (Scotland)

While the same measures for older children will not be appropriate for younger children, this does not mean that alternative public health measures should not be considered, as is anticipated in the national guidelines.

It is recognised that it is not possible to fully social distance within education and childcare settings with very young children and with children who have complex needs or disabilities.

It is particularly important in this context that a comprehensive risk assessment is undertaken which is regularly updated which identifies risk and puts appropriate control measures in place. The potential inability of younger children to socially distance does not reduce the requirement for adults to continue to socially distance.

My headteacher has sent me a generic risk assessment and workplace assessment asking for approval and mentioning documents to be ‘signed off’. What are my responsibilities as an NASUWT member or Workplace Representative? (Scotland)

Even if you are satisfied with the contents of a risk assessment, it is essential, in order to protect members’ legal rights and entitlements individually and collectively, that the NASUWT does not enter into any formal agreement on the risk assessment by, for example, confirming agreement in writing in a letter or in minutes or any meeting or signing the risk assessment or any other document in any way that signifies agreement.

If you have no concerns to raise on a risk assessment, or the concerns you have raised have been addressed by the employer, simply note receipt of the risk assessment.

Risk assessments are the employer’s documents and they must take full responsibility for the risk assessment and its implementation.

In addition, it should be noted that risk assessments are never ‘signed off’ as completed. Risk assessments are documents which must be regularly reviewed and adapted as necessary.

This also applies where members have an individual risk assessment - it should never be ‘signed off' by the individual.

Should schools be staggering breaks? (Scotland)

Staggering breaks is one measure which might be identified as a supportive measure within a school’s risk assessment of the management of pupils and staff throughout the day.

When some children in mainstream settings spit/bite or wilfully won’t follow social distancing, what can we do to stay safe? (Scotland)

Existing individual risk assessments for pupils should be reviewed and shared with staff. Risk assessments for pupils who are too young or unable to understand social distancing requirements must be carried out.

The behaviour policy must also be reviewed to take into account Covid-19, specifically to include exclusion for pupils who deliberately put others at risk (e.g. coughing or spitting at others) and pupils who will not (as opposed to cannot) comply with social distancing.

Which pupils require risk assessments? Black pupils? Pupils living with vulnerable people? (Scotland)

In addition to completing and reviewing risk assessments for pupils with ASN, employers should also complete an equality impact assessment for Black and minority ethnic (Black) pupils.

A primary teacher has been told to guide infants from parents into school if they are reluctant and needing that more intimate support. Is that reasonable? (Scotland)

The updated Government guidance states:

There is no requirement for physical distancing between children in primary schools. Distancing between adults not from the same household should be maintained and there should also be distancing between adults and children whenever possible. To ensure closer alignment with wider society and planned changes in ELC, this will be a requirement for “physical distancing of at least 1m”. However, as schools already have 2m physical distancing arrangements for adults that work well and do not limit capacity, it is expected these will be retained in practice.

So, in scenarios where it is not possible to maintain social distancing, this should be risk assessed and the risk assessment should identify the control measures. This might include the use of PPE as the final factor to help mitigate the risk.

It might also place requirements on parents, such that a parent of a reluctant child must wear a mask where it is likely that 2m distance from staff will not be maintained. Other factors may include making sure the interaction takes place outside as this is believed to reduce risk of transmission and is time-limited, as again this will be a factor.

In my primary school, the senior management team are allowing parents into playground. Should this be stopped in present circumstances? (Scotland)

This should be considered as part of the school risk assessment.

There may be some arguments for carers of the lower years of primary (P1/P2) being allowed in for pick-up provided the parents have been clearly informed of where, when and how pick-up can safely take place and are clear of the need to maintain social distancing.

ASN

Will all ASN pupils need to be risk assessed before coming into school? (Scotland)

Yes. Existing risk assessments should be reviewed for ASN and complex ASN.

There should be consultation with staff and unions on the risk assessments.

What additional measures should be in place in an ASN establishment? (Scotland)

In the first instance, risk assessments for all pupils must be undertaken or reviewed. Staff and unions should be consulted on the risk assessment.

In addition to workplace and individual risk assessments, schools have been asked to identify what personalised support will be in place to meet the physical and emotional needs of returning children with ASN.

For further information, consult the Scottish Government web page Coronavirus (COVID-19): Support for Continuity in Learning.

Is PPE essential for ASN schools where biting and spitting are frequent occurrences? (Scotland)

The first step must always be to undertake a risk assessment which should cover the use of PPE in such circumstances.

Cleaning and hand hygiene 

Should sprays be used for wiping down workstations? If so, what should the protocol be? Who should clean pupils' desks? (Scotland)

The Government guidance does stipulate that movement of children, young people and staff between classrooms should be minimised wherever possible but that where this cannot be avoided, the provision of appropriate cleaning supplies to enable them to wipe down their own desk/chair/surfaces before leaving and, especially, on entering the room should be considered as part of overall hygiene strategies for secondary schools.

The NASUWT is clear that cleaning duties should be undertaken by trained cleaning staff. Cleaning staff must be on duty during the day to ensure regular disinfection takes place.

Teachers have not received the relevant training to undertake cleaning using industrial chemicals. However, disinfectant wipes may be available for those who wish to use them for their own reassurance.

What is considered an appropriate cleaning supply should be covered in the risk assessment.

The HSE advise that the use of usual cleaning products is effective. Disinfectants for use on surfaces are regulated as biocidal products in the UK under the Biocidal Product Regulations (BPR) and must comply with relevant legislation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and Mixtures (CLP). The responsibility for ensuring that any particular product provided to teachers or pupils is suitable and appropriate for use lies with the employer and should be covered in the risk assessment.

If your headteacher advises that you will be provided with sprays to be used on desks and chairs members must:

  • check that the spray is clearly labelled with the content, the circumstances in which it can be used and the potential side effects;
  • request a copy of the risk assessment which has been undertaken on the spray;
  • check whether the employer has undertaken an assessment of the consequences of regular exposure to the spray;
  • request written guidance on its use and storage;
  • contact the NASUWT immediately if they have any concerns.

There should be no expectation that you must use the spray.

In relation to keyboards, pupils have been told to wipe them down.  Is this sufficient? (Scotland)

A risk assessment must be undertaken which identifies how equipment will be cleaned.  Cleaning keyboards is a specialist task and therefore it would not be suitable to ask teachers or pupils to undertake this task.

Who will be cleaning the toys in our classroom? (Scotland)

This is not the job of a teacher. The process for cleaning toys and other teaching equipment should be specified in the school risk assessment.

The Union suggests that cleaning staff would be best suited to undertaking this responsibility. Another option may be some form of clean-as-you-go system where pupils are provided with wipes to clean items they have used. However, this is going to be age/ability-dependent and may not be practical. 

Can the NASUWT give advice on the minimum level of cleaning for a secondary school classroom being used by multiple classes throughout the day? (Scotland)

Mitigations on enhanced hygiene and cleaning have been maintained in the most recent updated Government guidance

The needs in schools will vary according to the activities, the layout of the school the age of the pupils, etc. and so it is not possible to provide a one-size-fits-all recommendation on levels of cleaning.

The NASUWT insists that the plans for cleaning must be adequate and clear in the risk assessment and must not rely on persons not employed as cleaners undertaking the work. (An exception to this might be wiping down your own personal workstation before and after use for your own reassurance and comfort/)

Should schools have some kind of check or supervision in place to ensure that hand cleaning is taking place? (Scotland)

The Scottish Government guidance requires schools to support pupils to follow hand hygiene regimes. Some schools may have a system for checking in place, depending on the age and stage of the pupils involved. The school should be reminding all parents and pupils of their responsibilities to follow protective measures.

All schools should have in place a system to ensure compliance with the provisions in their risk assessments.

Some local authorities have told head teachers that they do not need to adhere to the guidance on 'outdoor' hand cleaning. I'm not sure if any schools are actually complying? Is this OK? (Scotland)

Adequate facilities should be available for hand hygiene, including hand-washing facilities that are adequately stocked or have alcohol-based hand rub at key areas. Outdoor hand basins or hand sanitisers should be available at entry/exit points, to allow all building users to wash/sanitise their hands as they enter and leave the building at pick-up and drop-off time and at break and lunch times.

Help should be given to those children and young people who struggle to wash their hands independently. Over time, it is possible that children and young people will become complacent about hand hygiene. Schools should involve them in making plans to ensure continued rigour.

The guidance states that outdoor hand basins or hand sanitisers should be available at entry and exit points - in the context of the guidance this means must. This requirement is not an optional extra. It also acts as a fundamental reminder to all pupils as they enter the premises of the new rules and procedures which will apply.

Whilst outdoor hand basins may not be a practical option for some schools there should be no problem with having a sanitiser station outside the entrances.

Must all rooms be provided with hand sanitiser or soap or both? (Scotland)

In accordance with the Scottish Government’s advice, all schools and colleges should ensure that they provide access to soap and hot water for washing. Hand sanitisers may also be used in many schools, although regular and effective handwashing is the best way to protect against coronavirus.

Effective hand washing has been underlined as a critical measure by the Scottish Government.

Bins in the classroom are open top and being used for tissues for blowing noses, etc. and some material for cleaning. Should these bins be closed or emptied on a more regular basis? (Scotland)

All bins for tissue waste must be emptied regularly - this is explicitly set out in the Government guidance. Assist FM guidance stipulates that any cleaning waste must be double-bagged and stored securely for 72 hours before disposal. Where possible, separate bins for PPE disposal should be identified.

This should be covered in the risk assessment.

Our school aims to place hand sanitiser outside rooms rather than wall mounting them which will narrow some corridors. Will this be acceptable? (Scotland)

The location of the provision of hand sanitisers should be part of the risk assessment.

It is essential to ensure that it is available and wall mounting assists with this. However, consideration will need to be given in the risk assessment as to how this can be managed.

Where teachers are moving classrooms throughout a school day, rather than pupils moving, what can teachers expect about cleaning of tables/chairs/PC/mouse during changeover? (Scotland)

Individual schools must set out clearly the frequency of cleaning planned as part of the site risk assessment and protections must be put in place to avoid multiple staff using the same equipment and desk.

The NASUWT believes that as a minimum there should be hand sanitiser provided on every teacher’s desk for their use and that pupils should have access to hand sanitiser before they enter the classroom.

Teachers moving between groups of pupils also risk the spread of the virus between those groups and moving should be avoided if at all possible. There should be a specific risk assessment of this process and the school needs to be able to demonstrate why the movement of teachers around the school is necessary.

Will teachers be expected to clean surfaces during classes? (Scotland)

Cleaning duties should be undertaken by trained cleaning staff. Cleaning staff must be on duty during the day to ensure that regular and necessary cleaning takes place.

Teachers should not be undertaking cleaning. Teachers are neither trained nor risk assessed for carrying out these activities.

Some schools are operating a clean-as-you-go policy and have an expectation that teachers should spray desks and chairs before each new group of pupils enters a classroom. There should be no obligation placed on teachers to do this and members are advised that if they are provided with sprays to use, to check that the spray is clearly marked with the chemical content, the terms and circumstances of its use and the conditions in which it should be stored, and any potential side effects. Members should also ask to see the employer’s risk assessment of the cleaning spray being provided.

Staff not employed as cleaners should not be pressured to undertake cleaning.

If in any doubt, contact should be made with the NASUWT immediately.

When should extra cleaning take place? When staff are in or when pupils go in? (Scotland)

There should be a complete clean of the premises either at the beginning or at the end of the day when staff and pupils have left the premises.

There should then be regular wipe downs of touchable surfaces during the day. The number of times will be in line with the risk assessments for the activities being undertaken.

Where a school/college is unable to meet hygiene and cleanliness standards, the NASUWT would expect the school/college to close.

As cleaners are not going to clean the toilets after each teacher has used it, I have been told we will have to use spray after we use it. Is this acceptable? (Scotland)

As outlined above, teachers should not be asked to undertake cleaning responsibilities.

However, disinfectant wipes, etc. should be available for those who wish to use them for their own reassurance.

Who is responsible for cleaning ICT equipment? In the past, I have cleaned netbooks as no one else including cleaners would take responsibility. (Scotland)

Schools should make clear their arrangements for sanitising ICT equipment as part of the risk assessment. The school must identify the staff responsible for this, as it is a key part of controlling virus transmission.

Can I insist on a record being identified in toilets of what has been cleaned and how regularly throughout the day? (Scotland)

The frequency of cleaning should be set out within the site risk assessment. The risk assessment should be reviewed regularly and it is reasonable to ask for a record to be kept to ensure any review can be well founded.

School buildings

As part of its arrangements to seek to reduce the transmission of Covid-19, my school requires staff to keep classroom doors and windows open. As the weather becomes colder, this may not be a reasonable option. What does the NASUWT advise? (Scotland)

Even before the issues of Covid-19 arose, schools were required to ensure that classrooms were ventilated appropriately. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which apply to England, Wales and Scotland state that:

‘Effective and suitable provision shall be made to ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air.’

They also state that:

‘Workers should not be exposed to uncomfortable draughts.’

Now that the autumn term has started, schools should be planning how they intend to meet the regulatory requirements regarding ventilation whist ensuring that classrooms do not fall below the minimum required temperatures in which staff and pupils can be expected to work. In Scotland these temperatures are:

Normal teaching space, incluidng dining halls, changing rooms etc: 18.5ºC
Assembly area: 15.5ºC
Cloakrooms and corridors, gymnasia: 13ºC
Games hall: 10ºC

The Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools sets out further detail on ventilation and temperature requirements.

Schools will need to consider the options available to them if they do not have in place effective heating and ventilation systems. They may for example have to increase the heating of rooms and possibly consider deploying additional safe, portable electric heaters. They may have to consider hiring or purchasing air purifiers in place of the ventilation through windows and doors. What is not an option is for employers to expect staff to trade off the safety measure of effective ventilation against a comfortable working temperature.

Please also see our advice on Ventilation and Covid-19
 

Is there advice on teachers being asked to supervise busy corridors during changeovers? (Scotland)

Changeovers should have been risk assessed, including individual risk assessments for teachers who are vulnerable. Individual risk assessments may indicate that such duties are not appropriate for some staff to undertake due to personal vulnerabilities.

Can teachers be asked to police and challenge pupils on one-way systems? (Scotland)

All staff have a responsibility to follow the measures put in by the employer and to safeguard theirs and others’ health and safety at work. Part of this responsibility covers reporting any failure to comply with a health and safety requirement, whether adult or pupil.

Any breach should be challenged and reported to the headteacher immediately. The Union has developed an incident report form which you can access on our Scotland Autumn Term page.

I believe airing rooms out after pupils have been in the class is advised. What is the guidance on rooms with no windows? Should these be avoided as viable classrooms? (Scotland)

Rooms without a window may not be suitable in the event of fire and they may also not provide adequate ventilation: both of these considerations are set out in the HSE classroom checklist (pdf).

These factors must be considered in any risk assessment, in addition to Covid-19-related considerations.

Use of rooms with no ventilation is also prohibited under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Is it reasonable to refuse any adaptation to the school building which would have a cost? (Scotland)

If it is a proportionate adaptation required to maintain safety, then there is an argument that cost should not be a bar to implementation.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will consider any genuine resource issue a local authority identifies.

In my school, there are fire doors that my headteacher says are not fire doors because they have windows in them, although they have blue signs that state fire door. Can these be propped open? (Scotland)

Under no circumstances should fire doors be propped open.

If the door is marked as a fire door, it should be treated as such. The test of whether a door is a fire door does not relate to whether there are windows - it is usually judged by the weight and location of the door and the closure mechanism.

If there is any doubt about whether a door is a fire door or not, it should not be propped open.

Can the NASUWT give advice on teachers moving from class to class and hot desking? (Scotland)

The revised approach to contact tracing means that groupings (sometimes referred to as “bubbles”) are no longer required to be maintained in schools. The Government have advised that these be removed as soon as possible, and in any case within 4 weeks of the start of term.

Schools should, however, continue to avoid assemblies and other types of large group gatherings, in keeping with the retention of existing mitigations for up to 6 weeks.

Consideration could be given to providing such teachers with their own keyboard for use in different classrooms.

The procedures for moving between classrooms must be included in an individualised risk assessment for any vulnerable member of staff to determine if it is appropriate for them to be changing workspaces.

Can school staff bases (places where staff will eat and leave their belongings) be used by pupils? (Scotland)

It is important for the mental health and wellbeing of staff that there is an appropriate rest area where they can go to have a break.

Staff bases should have been risk assessed for use by staff and should not be accessed by pupils unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case this should be included in the risk assessment. 

Can rooms without windows or air con be used as a classroom? (Scotland)

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that, 'Effective and suitable provision shall be made to ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air', so even ignoring the Covid situation, rooms without a form of ventilation should not be used, with the possible exception of storage rooms, etc.

The Covid situation makes this even more vital as effective ventilation is one of the key strategies for preventing virus transmission.

Should rooms without windows or other ventilation be used as staff bases for eating, etc? (Scotland)

The same rules apply as would apply to classrooms - such areas not only lack ventilation, but also lack natural light. 

Should music instructors be asked to instruct in small rooms without windows? (Scotland)

Essentially, the same rules as classrooms apply - there must be adequate ventilation.

Timetables with staggered lunches for pupils are being maintained, which means colleagues can’t eat together and catch up. Hasn’t this mitigation been removed? (Scotland)

The guidance still stipulates:
“Break times will continue to require careful consideration. Schools may wish to consider staggered break and lunch times”

The structure of the day is for pupils, e.g. the bells ring from start to finish to indicate the structure of the pupil day.

The SNCT Handbook is completely silent on breaks and lunches. While teachers may have become used to having those specific times, they are not a contractual entitlement. The statutory minimum entitlement is at least a 20-minute break for every 6 hours of continuous work would apply. However, there should be consultation with staff about any changes made to any of the working routines and break times before a change is implemented.

Consideration also needs to be given to the purpose of this as a mitigation. If it is to genuinely reduce risk and implement control measures, it would be very difficult to oppose.

Equality

I am a teacher from a black and minority ethnic (Black) background and I'm concerned that I am therefore at a significantly higher risk of contracting Covid-19. What support can I expect from my employer and my Union? (Scotland)

The top priority for the NASUWT is to protect members’ health, safety and welfare. There is a requirement for the employer to assess the risk of Covid-19 in relation to Black staff.

You should already have received an individual risk assessment. This needs to be regularly reviewed, particularly if there are any substantive changes, such as your local authority area moving up a level.

If you do not receive a response or are not satisfied with any response you do get, you should email the NASUWT Scotland Centre for further advice and support.

The NASUWT continues to campaign for Black members to be provided with a safe working environment including working from home where this cannot be met in the school.

Advice for teachers in vulnerable groups, including pregnancy 

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

Childcare

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? (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 (Scotland) is on our Covid-19 Advice page.

Pupils/staff with Covid-19 

A pupil in my class was displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and was sent home. What should I do? (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 I do if a pupil in my class or a colleague I work with tests positive for Covid-19? (Scotland)

From 9 August 2021, the approach to self-isolation and contact tracing for close contacts aged under 18, and for close contacts who are fully vaccinated adults, was updated.

When a school or childcare settings is informed of a positive case, whether by Test and Protect or by the individual or their parents/carers, they should also identify groups (e.g. class, school year, school trip) of other potential contacts in the school or childcare environment, and give them a “warn and inform” letter, which is similar to the approach taken with other infectious diseases in schools.

Test and Protect will focus on identification of household, overnight (sleepover) or clear, prolonged close contacts.
From 9th August, schools and ELC settings will no longer be as extensively involved in supporting contact tracing. They may be requested by Test and Protect to support identification of any adult staff or clinically vulnerable U18s who are not fully vaccinated and who have had unusually close or prolonged contact with an index case, so that tailored public health advice can be provided as per the policies described above.

The approach of requiring whole classes or groupings of pupils to self-isolate as close contacts will no longer be followed in normal circumstances.

Should staff be told of all suspected cases, not just those confirmed by a test? (Scotland)

Where a pupil is exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms, they will be required to self-isolate. This will be recorded as the reason for their absence.

Where Covid-19 cases are confirmed, staff should be informed of the actions the school has taken with regard to this.

Can my school ask for the Protect Scotland NHS Test and Trace app to be disabled while I am at work? (Scotland)

The NASUWT does not support requests from schools for the app to be disabled whilst at work. This has been checked with Health Protection Scotland who are clear that a school is not an environment where the app should be disabled.

Should members expect all rooms that the suspected case has occupied during that day or even previous days be quarantined until cleaned? (Scotland)

Advice on cleaning of premises after a person who potentially has Covid-19 has left the school premises can be found in the Health Protection Scotland Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings 

Once a possible case has left the premises, the immediate area occupied by the individual, e.g. desk space, should be cleaned with detergent to remove organic matter such as dust or body fluids, then a disinfectant to kill pathogens. This should include any potentially contaminated high-contact areas such as door handles, telephones and grab rails. Once this process has been completed, the area can be put back into use.

Any public areas where a symptomatic or Covid-19 diagnosed individual has only passed through (spent minimal time in), e.g. corridors, and which are not visibly contaminated with any body fluids, do not need to be further decontaminated beyond routine cleaning processes.

Assist FM has also produced complementary guidance on cleaning in schools.

Any individuals should wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell.

Do teachers have to regularly self test? (Scotland)

Schools and local authorities have been asked to continue to promote twice-weekly at-home LFD testing actively to their staff and secondary pupils, and that participants are encouraged to record their results.

Supply/trainee teachers

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.

Curriculum and learning

A number of activities my school is planning to run, such as Parent Council 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? (Scotland)

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 teaching 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.

Should members be agreeing to have their non-class contact on a fortnightly basis rather than weekly as a suggested strategy for minimising contact of groupings? (Scotland)

The flexibility for this approach is contained with the SNCT Handbook.

The Union suggests that consent should not be unreasonably withheld to facilitate short-term local agreements allowing changes to non-class contact time allocation, as set out in Appendix 2.17, as a support mechanism for teachers employed to undertake cover and to avoid them having unnecessary contact across multiple groups which would be contrary to the Scottish Government return to school guidance. 

What is the advice on practical activities for different subjects? (Scotland)

Following the move to Level 0 and beyond, children and young people can now engage in all drama, music, PE and dance activity in schools, indoors and outdoors. Safety mitigations should continue to apply in relevant settings where these activities are taking place (e.g. good ventilation, enhanced hygiene, etc.).

Ultimately, if it is not safe to carry out practical work, then this work should not be undertaken.
 

Am I able to collect in jotters for marking? (Scotland)

If school resources (for example, text books, jotters) are taken home by a child, there is no longer a requirement to quarantine these for 72 hours upon return to the setting 

When marking pupils’ work, teachers may wish to ensure that they:

  • have hand sanitiser available;
  • avoid touching their faces while marking; and
  • wipe the covers of the books where possible with disinfectant wipes.

Activities such as marking should be set out in the school’s risk assessment of that activity.

I have been instructed to attend an in-service day in person. Is this correct? (Scotland)

The Scottish Government Guidance updated on the 9 August 2021 clearly states:

Schools should, continue to avoid assemblies and other types of large group gatherings, in keeping with the retention of existing mitigations for up to 6 weeks. This precautionary approach reflects the unique environment in schools, which will still involve bringing together large numbers of unvaccinated children and young people on a non-discretionary basis (and which can therefore be differentiated from other situations in society in which large gatherings take place).

Where it is necessary to bring larger groups together, alternative mitigating actions should be put in place, such as meeting outside or limiting the time spent together.


This does not mean that an in-service day cannot take place in person under any circumstances. This decision needs to be based on an agreed up-to-date risk assessment which has been shared with you in advance. A small primary school may identify a different level of risk and control measures than for example a large secondary school.

The guidance is clear that large gathering should continue to be avoided. Since March 2020 it has clearly been demonstrated that effective in-service days can be delivered remotely and there should be no reason to move away from this at the moment, given the commitment to review the guidance at the end of September 2021.

Will parent's nights be in person now? (Scotland)

There should be no change to arrangements for parents evenings from those during the 20/21 school session for any which take place in the first six weeks of the 2021/22 school session.

The guidance continues to be the same. It remains the case that parents/carers should only be entering school premises where it is strictly necessary to support the child/young person.

Health and safety

Can a pupil deliberately coughing in the face of a teacher or similar be classed as violence in the workplace? (Scotland)

Yes.

If a member believes a young person is trying to spread Covid-19 or threaten them using coughing it needs to be dealt with as a very serious matter. Any behaviour of this nature should immediately be reported to the headteacher.

There have been a number of successful criminal prosecutions including some custodial sentences for individuals deliberately coughing on people, so the seriousness of this situation should not be downplayed by the employer.

The Union considers that behaviour management practices and policies have to be reviewed in light of Covid-19, i.e. to take very seriously any non-compliance with the health and safety measures implemented to keep staff and pupils safe.

Should members contact the police if this happens? (Scotland)

As with all violent incidents, a member has the prerogative to contact the police, especially if they believe the motivation to have been to cause harm/distress.

Remote education and contigency planning

I am being told I must support remote learning for pupils in my classes who are self-isolating? (Scotland)

Guidance makes clear that appropriate arrangements for remote learning must be in place for children and young people who cannot attend school in person due self-isolating requirements.

The SNCT Handbook sets out the 35-hour working week for teachers and where the time allocated within it does not allow for supporting pupils who are both attending class and learning from home, the responsibility for supporting home learners should rest with the employer.

If you are being pressured to undertake both physical and remote learning without additional time provided, please contact the NASUWT for advice.

When might blended learning begin or the school close? (Scotland)

The Scottish Government has specified that all schools should prepare and maintain clear, strong contingency plans for providing education remotely. In the event of a local outbreak of the virus, a school or a number of schools may be closed temporarily to help control transmission.  Schools and local authorities are expected to familiarise themselves with the key scenarios, expectations and actions set out in Annex B of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools 

The NASUWT has produced Outbreak Planning Management guidance to support members, reps and local secretaries in discussions with their school and employer. 

The NASUWT will continue to campaign for schools only to remain fully open when it is safe to do so.