Reviewed and updated September 2021

Attendance for staff and pupils
Risk assessments
Face coverings and PPE
Symptoms, test and trace
Conditions and employment
 

Attendance for staff and pupils

Which learners should be attending settings from September 2021? (Wales)

All learners are able to attend their educational setting unless they have coronavirus symptoms, have tested positive for coronavirus within the last 11 days or have been asked to self-isolate by TTP.

The Welsh Government has confirmed that children and young people previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be considered to be so with respect to Covid-19.*

There may, however, be a small number of learners who have been advised by their specialists to continue to isolate or reduce social contact. It is the position of the Welsh Government that they should follow that advice.

*Learners over 18 years of age before 31 December will remain on the shielding list as they will shortly be adults. They are able to attend school but the higher level of precautions observed by adults in the extremely vulnerable group needs to be observed in respect of this group of learners:

Which staff should be attending schools and colleges? (Wales)

The Welsh Government has advised that most educational workers should now be able to attend the workplace unless they have coronavirus symptoms, have tested positive for coronavirus within the last 11 days or have been asked to self-isolate by TTP.

School leaders must communicate and reassure with regard to the measures they have put in place to manage potential risks (see Risk Assessments below).

Clinically extremely vulnerable staff

The Welsh Government has advised that it is not necessary for this category of worker to follow shielding measures at this time if their workplace is secure. However, such staff are still advised to continue to work from home if possible. If it is not possible for them to work from home, a higher level of precautions needs to be observed: Guidance on protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable from coronavirus (COVID-19) - previously known as ‘shielding’.

Staff who are at increased risk

The Welsh Government has advised that staff who are at increased risk can attend the workplace and should follow the mitigating measures to minimise the risks of transmission.

Pregnant women

From 27 August 2021 pregnant women have been encouraged to take up the offer of the vaccine. However, Welsh Government advice is still to work from home where possible.

Employers are required to undertake a workplace risk assessment specifically for female employees of childbearing age and to manage any risks presented. As part of the risk assessment process, employers should consider adapting the duties of those who are pregnant or facilitating home working. Pregnant women of 28 weeks' gestation or with underlying health conditions may be at even greater risk. Please see the latest guidance at Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees.

If your employer requires you to attend your normal workplace but it is not possible to adhere to the prevention and mitigation measures you should contact contact the NASUWT Wales/Cymru Centre for further advice.

Do I have to attend work if I am clinically extremely vulnerable? (Wales)

From 1 April 2021, the Welsh Government has ‘paused’ current advice and stated that all clinically extremely vulnerable staff can return to work.

Employers and workers still need to follow the additional guidance for this category of worker, however, at Guidance on protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable from coronavirus (COVID-19) – previously known as ‘shielding’.

If your employer requires your on-site attendance, ask for a copy of the relevant risk assessment and contact the NASUWT Wales/Cymru National Centre if you are concerned that risks are not being addressed.

I am clinically extremely vulnerable and my employer has told me to stay at home. Will I still get paid? (Wales)

You should get paid. The Welsh Government Operational Guidance is clear that if you are working, even if this is at home, you should still receive your normal pay.

If your employer is refusing to pay you, contact the NASUWT Wales/Cymru National Centre.

I live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. Do I have to attend work? (Wales)

The Welsh Government advice is that those living with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable can still attend work where home working is not possible.

However, you should be able to ensure that good Covid-19 prevention practice can be maintained in the workplace and home setting. Required prevention practices are detailed in The System of Controls section of The Welsh Government Operational guidance for schools and settings.

If it is not possible to maintain prevention practices and your employer still insists on your attending work, ask for a copy of your employer’s risk assessment and contact the NASUWT Wales/Cymru National Centre.

I am classed as clinically vulnerable, yet I want to work on the school site. My school tells me I cannot do so and have to work from home. Can they insist on this? (Wales)

Yes. Your employer is responsible for your health and safety at work and if they cannot reasonably manage this, they can ask for you to work from home. You should still receive your full pay during this time.

However, there is an expectation that most clinically vulnerable staff should be able to attend the workplace. Your employer will need to clearly explain to you why they still need you to work from home.

There are many reasons why working from home may present difficulties and if you have concerns about your employer’s request, ask for a copy of your employer’s risk assessment and contact your NASUWT Wales/Cymru National Centre for further advice.

I am pregnant and my school is expecting my return to full on-site duties along with all other staff. Can they insist on this? (Wales)

In some circumstances, they can. However, the Welsh Government continues to advise pregnant workers to work from home where possible.

Employers are required to undertake a workplace risk assessment specifically for female employees of childbearing age and to manage any risks presented. As part of the risk assessment process, employers should consider adapting the duties of those who are pregnant or facilitating home working. Pregnant women of 28 weeks’ gestation or with underlying health conditions may be at even greater risk. Please see the latest guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees.

Please also see NASUWT’s guidance for pregnant teachers Pregnancy and Maternity Leave During the Covid-19 Pandemic.

If your employer insists on your attendance at work and you are concerned that the risks are not appropriately managed, get a copy of the employer’s relevant risk assessment and contact the NASUWT Wales/Cymru National Centre.

Risk assessments

What measures must schools and colleges put in place to minimise the risks of Covid-19 transmission? (Wales)

Whilst the country is on Alert Level Zero, there exist a few legal requirements that also apply in schools:

  • It is a legal requirement that schools/settings should revisit and update their risk assessments by building on the learning to date and the practices they have already developed. This will enable them to consider the additional risks and control measures to put in place. Schools and settings, working with their local authority health and safety adviser and trade unions, should also review and update their wider risk assessments and consider the need for relevant revised controls.

  • Everyone must still self-isolate for 10 days if they test positive for Covid-19.

  • Every adult (18 or over) who is notified by a contact tracer that they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate for 10 days, unless they have been fully vaccinated in the UK (one is considered to be fully vaccinated, if it has been at least 14 days since your full course of an approved vaccine.) Learners under the age of 18 no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

     


Employers must also make additional mitigations within their risk assessments, examples being:

  • limiting face-to-face interaction;

  • changing the layout of your premises to facilitate physical distancing and to limit face to face interaction;

  • limiting the number of people who are present on school premises, for example by reducing the number of visitors who can attend;

  • limiting the amount of time people are present on your premises;

  • using outdoor parts of your premises instead of indoor parts;

  • improving ventilation;

  • using physical barriers;

  • reducing the chance of staff, learners or visitors putting others at risk by encouraging or requiring regular testing;

  • improving hygiene, including providing hand sanitisation products or handwashing facilities for people when they enter and leave the premises;

  • keeping records of who is on the educational setting, and taking visitors’ contact details, to help the Test, Trace, Protect system.

More details are set out in:

What are the social distancing requirements for schools and colleges? (Wales)

The requirement to take all reasonable measures to maintain 2-metre distancing has been removed.

However, schools and settings should continue to encourage staff to maintain physical distance from other staff and from learners as much as possible, recognising this may not be possible with younger learners and for some learners with additional learning needs.

What rules should schools follow when organising contact groups for school activities? (Wales)

The requirement for establishing contact groups has been removed and replaced with a stronger focus on contact tracing.

However, it may be that some schools may wish to tailor provision for some pupils with additional learning needs as a result of specific health needs identified as part of the risk assessment process which would include the use of contact groups.

They also may be reintroduced in some situations, for example, to manage a local surge in infections.

Operational guidance for schools and settings

What are the rules for ventilation of school and college buildings? (Wales)

Health and safety law states that employers must make sure there is an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace.

Schools and settings are expected to ensure appropriate ventilation at all times and they should consider ventilation alongside the other control measures needed to reduce risks of transmission. This should be evident in the risk assessment as it is a key mitigation in the control of the spread of the virus.

Ventilation can be achieved by a variety of measures, including mechanical ventilation, e.g. fan-driven air movers, and natural ventilation, e.g. opening doors and windows. The HSE has produced detailed guidance on ventilation Air conditioning and ventilation.

Detailed Government information can be found at Schools coronavirus guidance on face coverings.

Should my school update its risk assessments because of new variants? (Wales)

Educational sites should be constantly reviewing and, if need be, updating their risk assessments in response to changes in Government guidance and local conditions.

The Government is clear that schools will need to review their risk assessments to ensure that appropriate mitigations are in place to ensure the school learning environment remains as Covid-safe as possible in line with their published guidance.

Face coverings and PPE

When do staff and learners need to wear face coverings? (Wales)

The Government no longer recommend the routine use of face coverings in the classroom for staff or learners. However, schools may decide to continue to use face coverings as a result of their risk assessment – for example, in communal areas.

If anyone wishes to wear a face covering for personal reasons anywhere in the school/setting they should be permitted to do so.

Operational guidance for schools and settings: Use of face coverings for health purposes

When may I need to wear PPE? (Wales)

The use of protective personal equipment (PPE) by staff within education settings should be based on a clear assessment of risk, taking into account each individual setting and the needs of the individual learner. Educational settings should already have a risk assessment that identifies the need for the use of PPE.

Broadly, PPE should be used when dealing with suspected Covid-19 cases in learners and when giving personal care to a child.

All staff should have been trained how to put on or remove PPE in the right order, safely dispose of the waste, and use correct hand hygiene steps to reduce the risk of onward transmission of infection.

Operational guidance schools and settings

If I am in close contact with pupils on a regular basis should my school provide me with PPE? (Wales)

The Government claim that no PPE is required when undertaking routine educational activities in classroom or school settings.

Are visitors allowed? Do they have to wear face coverings? (Wales)

Yes, visitors are allowed and there should be provision for them in the setting’s risk assessment.

In general, visitors to the school setting could use a face covering, adhere to site guidance on social distancing/hygiene, and log their presence to adhere to the Government’s TTP strategy.

Symptoms, test and trace

What should happen if staff or learners develop symptoms of Covid-19? (Wales)

Any staff member or learner who has any of the three main symptoms of Covid-19 - a new persistent cough, fever and/or loss of taste or smell - should not attend the school setting but should self-isolate, arrange a PCR Covid-19 test and notify the school of this.

Operational guidance schools and settings

I have received contact from the NHS test and trace app which tells me that I am a contact of an individual who has tested positive. What should I do? (Wales)

Adults who have been fully vaccinated and received the vaccine in the UK and those under the age of 18 will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

You will be asked to take PCR tests on day two from your last contact with the positive case, or as soon as possible, and on day eight. It is important that you take these tests even if you feel well, as you may have Covid-19 even if you do not have symptoms.

You may also receive advice and guidance from TTP contact tracers about how to protect yourself, such as:

  • minimising contact with others and avoiding crowded settings;

  • using lateral flow tests on a daily/more regular basis for the time you would otherwise have been self-isolating;

  • not visiting vulnerable people, such as those in care homes or hospitals;

  • paying extra attention to thorough and regular handwashing and wearing a face covering.

Self isolation

What should happen if staff and learners have no symptoms but members of their household have symptoms of Covid-19 or have tested positive for Covid-19? (Wales)

Adults who have been fully vaccinated and received the vaccine in the UK and those under the age of 18 will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

However, you should self-isolate straight away if you have symptoms and until you receive the results of a Covid-19 PCR test.

Self-isolation

If I provide intimate care to pupils, should I be protected? (Wales)

Undertaking personal care requires the use of PPE equipment.

Schools, settings and local authorities already have risk assessment processes in place which should be used to identify the need for the use of PPE.

Following any risk assessment, where the need for PPE has been identified, it should be readily available and provided by the employer.

Operational guidance for schools and settings

What are the rules on the Test, Trace and Protect Strategy in Wales?

Details of the Welsh Government’s Test, Trace and Protect strategy are on the Welsh Government’s website.

The main points to remember are that adults who have been fully vaccinated and received the vaccine in the UK and those under the age of 18 will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

You may also receive advice and guidance from TTP contact tracers about how to protect yourself.

Detailed information is found on Schools coronavirus guidance: School contact tracing.

Are staff and learners required to undertake regular lateral flow tests? (Wales)

Schools and settings currently operate asymptomatic testing on a regular basis as set out in the setting’s risk assessment.

Test kits are available for all staff and learners from Year 7 upwards, all FE college learners and learners on work-based apprenticeship and traineeship programmes. These tests are for use at home.

Testing is voluntary, but those who are eligible for tests are strongly encouraged to participate.

Operational guidance for schools and settings

What action should be taken if a lateral flow test is positive for Covid-19? (Wales)

Anyone who tests positive using a lateral flow test (LFT) must not attend a school/setting. They must undertake the following actions:

Operational Guidance for schools and settings

Do I have to take a Covid-19 test? Can I be disciplined for not taking a test? (Wales)

Taking a test is voluntary and therefore staff should not be disciplined for not taking a test.

Can supply teachers get access to rapid-result tests? (Wales)

Yes, supply teachers are included in the Welsh Government testing offer.

If a member of staff or pupil tests positive, should the site close? (Wales)

A positive test should only trigger self-isolation for that individual.

Self-isolation

If I have tested positive and have to self-isolate, can this trigger sickness absences reviews? (Wales)

If teachers or other staff members are unable to go to work as they have to self-isolate, they should speak with their employer and attempt to agree reasonable arrangements for homeworking, if they are able to do so. Teachers unable to attend work will be paid as normal.

The NASUWT believes that employers should be flexible where members cannot attend work because they have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Where an employee’s absence triggers action under the employer’s absence management policy, Covid-19-related absence should be disregarded for the purposes of the employer’s absence threshold at which formal action is triggered under the policy.

Furthermore, employees should not be requested to provide evidence of sickness absence, such as a fit note, from their GP in these circumstances.

Where an employer is not prepared to be flexible, please contact the NASUWT for further advice and support.

Schools coronavirus guidance

Conditions and employment

Can my headteacher/employer require me to do different types of work or different duties at this time? (Wales)

Due to possible self-isolation and positive tests, it may be the case that schools and settings may need to alter the way in which they deploy their staff and use existing staff more flexibly.

However, managers must discuss and agree any changes to staff roles with individuals.

The rules for ‘Rarely Cover’ in the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (Wales) Document have not changed and therefore teachers cannot be required to cover for absent colleagues in situations that were foreseeable. Any Covid-19 related absence will now be entirely foreseeable and thus teachers cannot be required to cover.

Flexibility in deployment should not lead to individuals operating outside the scope of their role. It is important that planning builds in the need to avoid increases in unnecessary and unmanageable workload burdens.

As a PPA teacher, should I have to teach/cover several/more than one class? (Wales)

Although the operational guidance relating to contact groups is being phased out by 20 September, it is still the case that minimising contacts and mixing between people reduces transmission of Covid-19. This continues to be important in all contexts and schools and settings must continue to consider how to implement this and do everything possible to minimise any potential spread of the virus.

At Alert Level Zero, there is more flexibility for employers to determine what is required to manage risks at the local level.

As part of this, schools will need to ensure that regular Covid-19 risk assessments continue to be undertaken to directly address risks associated with Covid-19 to enable measures to be put in place to control those risks.

This could be to maintain or reintroduce consistent groups to reduce the risk of transmission if case rates in a local area are a cause for concern.

Can I be asked to clean my room/toilets/dining halls? (Wales)

These are not part of teachers’ duties set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (Wales) Document.

Schools have been told to maintain appropriate levels of cleaning in line with other communicable diseases. There is no longer a need for schools to set aside specific days for deep cleaning.

However, if there is a confirmed cluster associated with one class in the school, a deep clean of the immediate area should be carried out.

Enhanced cleaning may still be needed if there are any vulnerable staff or pupils in any class or group, but this is not a teacher’s role.

Can supply/peripatetic teachers move between schools? (Wales)

There are no restrictions on teachers moving between schools.

Should I be taking pupils' books home to mark? (Wales)

It has been established by public health authorities in the UK that the virus responsible for Covid-19 can remain active on contaminated surfaces, ‘although the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 24 hours and even more so by 48 hours’.

Schools, therefore, still need to consider processes to manage the risks to staff and pupils of handing paper, including exercise books and worksheets, that may have come into contact with the virus.

The NASUWT has been clear that many existing marking practices in schools in normal circumstances are excessive, burdensome and add little to pupil progress and achievement.

The decision about whether or not learning and feedback approaches require the handling of paper-based work undertaken by pupils should be driven by the professional judgements of teachers.

Where teachers determine that handling of paper-based work is unavoidable, they should follow good Covid-control practices. These include:

  • handwashing or sanitising before and after handling such materials;

  • avoiding touching their faces with hands that have not been washed or sanitised.

What can I do if changes have made my workload unbearable? (Wales)

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, excessive workload and poor wellbeing were cited by teachers and school leaders across the UK as among their main concerns about the quality of their working lives.

Not only have many of the causes of these concerns remained relevant during the pandemic, but they have also been exacerbated by the extraordinary pressures that Covid-19 has placed on schools and the staff who work in them.

The need to adapt quickly to rapidly changing circumstances, while facing the same range of challenges that Covid-19 brought to every other member of society, has placed unprecedented demands on the UK’s teachers and school leaders.

More on the NASUWT guidance on workload and the pandemic can be found on our Workload, Wellbeing and Covid-19 web page.

Should I be running breakfast or after-school clubs? (Wales)

The Welsh Government is reminding local authorities that the duty to provide free breakfasts in primary school still applies. The Welsh Government has produced guidance on the provision of free breakfasts in primary schools.

However, the staffing of breakfast clubs is not part of teachers’ duties as set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (Wales) Document.

After-school clubs are also voluntary and teachers cannot be directed to undertake them. The NASUWT advice would be not to participate in such arrangements. Members previously involved in these activities and being instructed to continue to be involved should seek advice from the NASUWT.

Can I take pupils on educational visits? (Wales)

Welsh Government guidance now allows educational visits to resume.

The Welsh Government Framework notes that ‘schools wishing to undertake any type of educational visit should continue to undertake the usual risk assessment process. This risk assessment should include arrangements for what will happen if a member of the group (a learner or staff member) develops COVID-19 symptoms during the visit.

When we return to the school in Spetember, my headteacher has told me I will be teaching in a different Key Stage altogether. I have had no training or induction on this. Can they do this? (Wales)

The test is one of reasonableness. Teachers can be directed to teach any age group or subject, as long as this is reasonable. Managers should discuss and agree any changes to staff roles with individuals.

Any flexibility in deployment due to the pandemic should not lead to individuals operating outside the scope of their role. It is important that planning builds in the need to avoid increases in unnecessary and unmanageable workload burdens.

If you consider that the demands on you are unreasonable, please email the NASUWT Wales/Cymru National Centre.

The headteacher has rearranged PPA so that I have all my PPA for the half term in a block of three days. Can they do that? (Wales)

The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (Wales) Document states that PPA time must be provided in units of not less than half an hour during the school’s timetabled teaching week and must amount to not less than 10% of the teacher’s timetabled teaching time.

PPA time must be allocated in the school’s normal timetabled teaching period whether the school operates a weekly, fortnightly or any other timetable cycle. It is not possible, therefore, to block PPA time for a whole half term or other period. It must be spaced out normally.

The pandemic has not changed the need for PPA or how it can be allocated. In fact, it can be argued that teachers require more time more frequently at the moment.

The school will be closing for half a day a week so that teachers can have their PPA time. Is this right? (Wales)

The Welsh Government has not given schools the power to change their timetabled teaching week in this way.

Schools would have to consult staff and parents on such a change and would have to get permission from the local authority. Even so, it is not clear if this is a legal change.

Should pupils be moving classroom between lessons or should staff move? This has impacted on my workload. Is this right? (Wales)

This was a change brought in by some schools when pupils returned to school. The removal of most restrictions makes this less likely.

However, the NASUWT believes that one of the other control measures is that movement around the school site is kept to a minimum.In these circumstances, it is even more important to ensure schools and settings continue to be well ventilated.

Managers should discuss and agree any changes to staff roles with individuals. It is important that planning builds in the need to avoid increases in unnecessary and unmanageable workload burdens.

The NASUWT maintains that despite the relaxation of restrictions it would remain sensible for arrangements should be put in place to enable learners to maintain social distance from each other as well as staff members wherever possible, alongside other control measures.