COVID-19 (coronavirus) update

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With effect from 20th March 2020, the UK Government has announced that schools will be open for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils (e.g. children with a child protection plan, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children or children with an education health and care plan). The generality of pupils are required by the Government to stay at home until further notice.

The NASUWT is committed to supporting members throughout the coronavirus emergency. Whilst some services may be temporarily affected, we are continuing to maintain our service to members via our website and email.

Members can contact us for support as follows:

England: advice@mail.nasuwt.org.uk
Northern Ireland: rc-nireland@mail.nasuwt.org.uk
Scotland: rc-scotland@mail.nasuwt.org.uk
Wales: rc-wales-cymru@mail.nasuwt.org.uk

All other enquiries: nasuwt@mail.nasuwt.org.uk

Government advice
Trade union support
School attendance
Care for the children of teachers whose school is closed
Teaching and learning
Online learning
Planning and marking
Educational visits
Pupil reports
Contacting parents
Families’ access to the free school meal voucher scheme
Parent-teacher consultation meetings
Attendance monitoring
Inspection and accountability
Managing risk
Adult:child ratios
Behaviour management
Meeting the needs of children not otherwise on the school’s roll
Safeguarding
Vulnerable children and young people
Special and residential schools
Teacher absence
Staffing rotas
Staff availability during COVID-19 school closure
Staff facilities
Working remotely
Evening and weekend working
Holiday working
Working at other schools
Working to support other public services
Disciplinary procedures
Other procedures
Redundancy procedures
Sickness absence
Disabled teachers
Pregnancy and maternity
Teachers’ pay
Performance management/appraisal
Initial teacher training/Initial teacher education and induction/probation
Assessment and qualifications
Keeping in touch

Government advice

UK Governments have published information and guidance regarding school closures which is available at:

England https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision
Northern Ireland https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/general-guidance-covid-19-schools
Scotland https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus---school-and-elc-closures-guidance-on-critical-childcare-provision-for-key-workers/
Wales https://gov.wales/how-schools-will-work-during-coronavirus-pandemic
Jersey https://www.gov.je/health/coronavirus/Pages/index.aspx
Guernsey https://www.gov.gg/article/176715/COVID-19---Coronavirus
Isle of Man https://www.gov.im/coronavirus#accordion
Gibraltar https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/covid19

Trade union support

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has caused considerable distress, anxiety and concern for NASUWT members. In a rapidly changing context for teachers and other workers, many thousands of NASUWT members are turning to the Union for information, advice and support. Whilst workers in many other occupations are being encouraged to stay at home, teachers are expected to continue to work, as part of a national effort, alongside the NHS, public transport and other critical services. It is therefore important that members can continue to rely on and access their Union at this time.

Good employers already recognise that working with the NASUWT and other unions makes a real difference in helping to address issues and concerns raised by staff and to maintain good employee relations. It is therefore important to continue to ensure release for NASUWT Representatives to continue to be available to provide support to members, including access to support by telephone, email and other remote technologies.

NASUWT Representatives are encouraged to work with employers to ensure that all staff have the information they need to deliver the vital support required by the country at this critical time.

School attendance

The Government is clear that if children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. The Government has asked that parents keep their children at home, wherever possible, and for schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

Schools should have in place procedures to regularly review the requirements for children to attend school.

If there is one parent/carer who is not a key worker and/or does not fall into one of the vulnerable groups defined by the Government, the NASUWT expects that their child must not be in school during this period.

Where a parent is in a vulnerable group and is staying at home, the NASUWT expects that their child will also stay at home.

Care for the children of teachers whose school is closed

Teachers are key workers and they may find that their children’s school is closed for a variety of reasons.  Teachers who will be in work themselves and have no other available or appropriate care arrangements for their children should expect that their employer makes arrangements in the workplace for the children of teachers who are in work.

Teaching and learning

During the period of school closures, schools have, in effect, been repurposed to enable the provision of childcare for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Curriculum provision within schools is therefore disapplied during the period of COVID-19 closure.

The NASUWT expects that all teaching, lecturing or instructing, including peripatetic tuition, must be discontinued at this time.

Online learning

The NASUWT supports the use by schools of online/digital learning platforms to provide access to teaching and learning resources for children who are attending school and for those children who are staying at home. The NASUWT expects that all the necessary security and safeguarding arrangements are put in place by the school to ensure the safety of pupils and staff.

More extended advice is available on our Arrangements for Remote Teaching, Learning and Support page.

Planning and marking

The disruption of COVID-19 school closures means that normal teaching and learning activities will be disrupted.

Teachers may reasonably be expected to organise and make available learning resources for children who would otherwise normally attend school.

The marking and planning of pupils’ work undertaken remotely should take account of the highly atypical circumstances in which schools are operating and should be guided by the professional discretion and judgement of teachers.

Further advice and guidance on the planning and marking of pupils’ work in remote learning contexts is available on our Arrangements for Remote Teaching, Learning and Support page.

The NASUWT supports teachers in reviewing and updating schemes of work and lesson plans for delivery to pupils once the period of COVID-19 school closure has concluded.

Educational visits

Schools should cease the provision of educational visits and learning outside the classroom.

Pupil reports

In each UK jurisdiction, it is a statutory requirement that parents will receive a written report on their children’s progress and achievement by the end of the summer term. Currently, these requirements remain in place.

It is essential that schools ensure that reporting arrangements are reasonable in terms of the burdens they place on teachers and take effective account of the difficult circumstances in which teachers are working. For example, schools should recognise that teachers may not be able to access online reporting systems remotely or to draw upon information that they might normally be expected to use in their report writing. Appropriate allowance should be made for such conditions in the expectations placed on teachers.

In some parts of the UK, there is a legal requirement to report the results of statutory tests and assessments that have been cancelled for this year. The NASUWT is continuing to engage with relevant authorities where appropriate on how these requirements will be managed. Further information and advice will be shared with members as soon as it becomes available.

Contacting parents

The NASUWT is aware that some schools have sought to compel teachers to routinely telephone or video conference the parents or carers of each pupil in their classes or tutor groups. Such contact is inordinately time-consuming and serves no valid educational or pastoral purpose. Schools should have arrangements in place to enable parents to make contact over matters of genuinely urgent concern. Where appropriate, staff in schools can use email or text messages to communicate with parents directly.

In exceptional circumstances, if direct contact with a parent is necessary by telephone, this should not be undertaken on personal equipment and the member of school staff making the call should be joined by another colleague.

Specific arrangements will be in place for engaging with the parents and carers of children with a social worker or for the statutory review and assessment of pupils with special/additional educational needs. While it is important that schools are aware of any developments in respect of these children, there is no requirement anywhere in the UK for teachers to make telephone or video calls to parents, carers or pupils on a one-to-one basis.

In ordinary circumstances, schools are expected to meet the parents of pupils with special or additional needs periodically to discuss these pupils’ progress and to raise and address any concerns. Where such meetings are deemed necessary and need to be organised remotely due to current restrictions, as a minimum expectation, it is important that the school is represented by more than one teacher.

Families’ access to the free school meal voucher scheme

Where children are accessing their free school meal entitlement through a third party voucher scheme, schools should have systems in place to ensure that parents are aware of the scheme and have a means of accessing vouchers digitally or, if necessary, through posted or collected hard copies.

It is important to note that apart from cases where schools have incorrect email details for parents of eligible children, they may not be able to resolve problems that arise from the operation of the scheme. Concerns must be raised directly with the scheme operator, details of which should be shared with parents.

The NASUWT is aware that some schools have been asked to check whether eligible families are accessing the scheme. Schools should ensure they are encouraging parents to do so through their established communication channels. Where schools are made aware of any home circumstances where the safety and wellbeing of a child may be at risk, they should follow their established safeguarding and child protection procedures.

Parent-teacher consultation meetings

There are no legal requirements on schools in the UK to hold consultation meetings for the parents of all pupils in the summer term. Nevertheless, while such meetings are customary in ordinary circumstances, it would not be appropriate for such events to take place given the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak.

For the reasons set out above, schools should also not seek to replicate face-to-face parent-teacher consultation remotely through telephone conversations or video conferencing.

Attendance monitoring

Schools are not required to undertake attendance monitoring of children during the period of COVID-19 school closure.

Schools should ensure they register and record the names of all children who attend school during the period of COVID-19 closure.

Inspection and accountability

Routine inspection has been suspended across the UK until further notice. The NASUWT is continuing to engage with all school and college inspectorates on the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak for their work and will ensure that members are kept fully up to date on any important developments. The Union has produced specific advice on inspection-related issues that have arisen since the partial closure of schools and other educational settings in England and Wales.

Managing risk

Schools must have in place risk assessment procedures to ensure the health and safety of children and staff who are in school during the period of COVID-19 school closure.

it is essential that schools’ existing policies and procedures for securing the health and safety of staff and pupils are continued during this period, including those concerned with risk assessment and addressing hazards in the workplace.

Risk assessments should be shared with staff as appropriate.

Schools should explore the provision of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for staff, particularly for those staff who are unable to practise social distancing in the workplace, due to the needs of the children they are working with. School leaders should discuss with staff the procedures to be followed to reduce the risk of catching or transmitting the virus.

Where there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, the procedures issued by the UK Government and relevant Public Health bodies must be followed at all times.

Staff and children should stay at home if they are unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature.

If a member of staff or a child becomes unwell on site with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature they should be sent home immediately and not return for at least 7 days.

Schools should have in place procedures to clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces more often than usual using their standard cleaning products/equipment. Teachers should not be asked to undertake cleaning or to use their own products/equipment to clean their work base or the workplace. Where schools are unable to maintain cleaning routines, including deep cleaning in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19, the site should be closed.

Schools must ensure sufficient supply of soap and hot water at all times. Where this is not possible, the school should be closed. Children and staff should be asked to wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds using soap and water (or hand sanitiser if available) .

Schools should ensure the supply of tissues for staff and pupils to catch coughs and sneezes and ensure these are disposed of appropriately.

If a child or a member of staff is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible and if appropriate, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible or appropriate to isolate the individual, they should be moved to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.

A separate bathroom facility should be provided for individual who display symptoms. Bathrooms should be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.

Staff should not transport children home under any circumstances.

Where a teacher has been with a child or another adult who has become unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, there is no requirement for that teacher to go home unless they also feel unwell with COVID-19 related symptoms. However, they should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell.

Headteachers or senior leaders must consider the full range of factors when making decisions to keep a school open or to close the site, including taking account of the size of the establishment and risk of further spread of the virus.

Adult:child ratios

For the purpose of establishing provision for children during the period of COVID-19 school closure, schools should check and confirm that their insurers will continue to provide the necessary cover for their setting/provision. This is particularly important given the change of purpose/use of the school’s buildings and in the event of reduced staffing levels.

The Out of School Alliance, an umbrella organisation for out of school clubs, recommends a staff/child ratio of 1:8 for groups of children under 8 and 1:10 for groups comprised of older children. The NASUWT’s view is that schools should only remain open if they can maintain these levels of staffing.

In addition to appropriate ratios, schools should ensure that staff have appropriate qualifications and are deemed confident and capable of working with children of the ages under their care.

Behaviour management

The NASUWT expects that good practice in behaviour management should underpin the maintenance of provision in schools open to children during the COVID-19 closure period.

The NASUWT fully expects that schools continue to utilise the full range of sanctions (up to and including exclusion) where children engage in violent or otherwise abusive behaviour.

The NASUWT expects that teachers must be informed prior to being asked to look after a child with a history of violent or abusive behaviour.

Meeting the needs of children not otherwise on the school’s roll

Where, during the period of COVID-19 school closure,  a child is being looked after in a school where they are not otherwise on roll, the NASUWT expects that the Headteacher must review and share details about the background of the child (including information about special and additional learning needs and disability, and any behavioural issues), before the child is assigned to any member of staff.

Safeguarding

During the period of COVID-19 school closure, the school must demonstrate that it is exercising appropriately its duty for safeguarding of children attending school, including checking the suitability of persons looking after children. 

Remote learning and remote pastoral support for pupils raise particular child protection and safeguarding issues. Further guidance is available on our Arrangements for Remote Teaching, Learning and Support page.

Vulnerable children and young people

It is important to recognise that there are specific issues that schools need to address in respect of pupils who are identified as vulnerable. Children and young people who are vulnerable include those who are under the care of social workers and pupils with SEN/AEN/ASN.

The DfE in England has produced dedicated guidance on vulnerable children. The NASUWT has produced a briefing for members working in England. Members in England working with vulnerable children in residential settings should also note the Union's advice below under Special and residential schools.

The Scottish Government has published guidance relevant to the management of vulnerable children. The Union has produced advice for members in Scotland.

The Union has produced guidance on vulnerable children for members working in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Special and residential schools

The maintenance of staff and learner safety is of critical importance in residential settings given the particular issues these settings encounter in these respects. All residential settings should have systems and structures in place that comply with the existing minimum standards set by the Government. Members should seek advice and information from the NASUWT urgently if they believe these standards are not being met.

Leaders and staff in children’s homes should be familiar with the standards set by the relevant Regulations pertaining to provision in children’s homes. In particular, settings are required to have enough suitably trained staff (including someone in a management role) on duty to meet the assessed needs of all children in the home and to ensure that those staff are able to respond to emergency placements, where accepted.

These standards remain critical to securing minimum standards of safety in children’s homes. Members working in children’s homes who are concerned that the standards are not being met, or are at imminent risk of not being met, should seek further advice and guidance from the NASUWT.

Many of the children and young people in residential settings and special schools are regarded as vulnerable. Additional considerations apply in meeting the needs of such pupils. Members should refer to the advice published by the NASUWT for members in:

Teacher absence

Where a teacher lives with someone in the most vulnerable health groups, the teacher should be directed to work from home.

Where a teacher has an underlying health condition, or is pregnant or aged over 70, the teacher should notify their employer. The employer should take appropriate steps to safeguard the health of the teacher by asking them to stay at home and work remotely.

Staffing rotas

COVID-19 school closures will inevitably mean fewer children attending school to be looked after.

In view of this, schools will want to plan their staffing levels accordingly, to minimise the risk of individual exposure to the coronavirus, to address absences as a result of the spread of COVID-19 and to manage the workload of remaining staff members during this period.

When planning and organising rotas for staff being in the workplace, schools should consider the full resource of all staff available across the school’s team. In this context, teachers and support staff may be expected to undertake supervisory duties, since no active teaching will be taking place.

The purpose of a rota is to determine how many and which staff will be on site on each day.

In line with the Government’s general public health guidance, it would be inappropriate for schools to require every member of staff to be on site every day.

Rotas should take into account the NASUWT’s guidance in respect of suitable adult:child ratios, to ensure healthy and safe working environments.

Rotas should take account of the normal contractual position of each member of staff. Therefore, in the case of a member of staff who normally works between Monday and Wednesday, there should be no expectation that s/he can be required to be on site on Thursday or Friday.

Rotas should be planned to ensure that there is a senior manager or responsible person on site at all times when the school is open.

Rotas should be devised to ensure adequate levels of staff cover to enable all staff to take breaks during the day and to enable staff to take a lunch break.

The NASUWT expects that rotas should be drawn up in consultation with all staff and agreed with staff at the school.

Rotas should be based on provision for children between Monday and Friday only.

Staff availability during COVID-19 school closure

Employers should keep a list of staff who:

  1. are unable to attend the workplace because they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19;
  2. are unable to attend the workplace due to a member of their household having COVID-19 symptoms;
  3. are unable to attend work due to non-COVID-19 sickness;
  4. have an underlying health condition and who must stay at home and/or work remotely.

Staff facilities

Separate provision should be made for dedicated staff facilities (including staff room, refreshment facilities and dedicated toilets/washrooms).

Working remotely

Where teachers are asked to stay at home and work remotely, they remain subject to reasonable direction by their employer.

Teachers should not be expected to be available around the clock whilst working from home.

Teachers should expect to have breaks during the day and they should also be clear about the start and finish time of their working day.

Remote teaching, learning and pastoral support must be organised appropriately. Further advice on this specific issue is available on our Arrangements for Remote Teaching, Learning and Support page.

Evening and weekend working

The COVID-19 school closure has prompted some questions about opening schools at evening and weekends.

Notwithstanding any other decisions regarding extended opening of schools, teachers must not be required to work in schools at evenings or weekends unless otherwise and specifically contracted to do so.

Holiday working

During the period of continued COVID-19 school closures, some schools may seek to provide childcare to priority households outside of term time (e.g. during the Easter, half-term and summer holidays).

The NASUWT recognises that some staff may agree voluntarily to support such provision. It is important that where teachers volunteer in this way, there is clarity on how staff will be appropriately remunerated and with regard to insurances and indemnification.

The NASUWT does not agree that teachers may be compelled to work during holiday periods.

Working at other schools

During the period of COVID-19 school closures, teachers may be asked to work at other schools. Whilst some contracts of employment permit this, in other cases deploying a teacher to work at a different school should ideally be done with the consent of the teacher concerned, and should in any event be predicated on deployment of a teacher to work in neighbouring schools only.  

In England, the DfE’s guidance on residential settings states that in respect of special school provision, staff from elsewhere may be brought in to prevent closure or to allow a closed setting to re-open. The guidance indicates that local authorities now have responsibility for securing these additional staff and that re-deployments may be made involving those employed in academies as well as in local authority maintained schools.

In all cases, where members are asked to work at other schools, members should contact the NASUWT immediately for specific advice.

Working to support other public services

Reference has been made by governments across the UK to the potential for teachers to be asked to support other public services.  At this time of national emergency, the public service workforce is being viewed by governments as one workforce. 

There has been no detail issued about when this would apply and how this would operate. The NASUWT is seeking further clarification on this and as soon as it is received we will issue the information together with advice for members.

Disciplinary procedures

COVID-19 school closures will be highly disruptive to normal school life. The NASUWT expects employers to suspend their disciplinary procedures and ensure that whilst the disruption continues, teachers do not suffer any detriment or disadvantage.

Other procedures

Many teachers will be relying on completion of applications for flexible working, returning after maternity/paternity leave, retirement planning, resignations, probation/induction, etc. The NASUWT fully expects all employers to put in place such arrangements as necessary to ensure the timely completion of these processes (remotely if necessary) and in order that there is no detriment to the teacher.

Redundancy procedures

Some schools had initiated these procedures before the COVID-19 pandemic and had not completed them.  The NASUWT would expect that at a time of national emergency where the future is uncertain that these procedures must cease and be withdrawn.

Sickness absence

Where a teacher was already off work due to sickness for a non-COVID-19 related matter, the NASUWT will expect employers to adopt a sympathetic and flexible approach. During the COVID-19 emergency, many employers will struggle to provide appropriate support and assistance (e.g. return to work meetings; phased return; reasonable adjustments; etc.) to teachers returning to work after a period of sickness absence. Some GP services and Occupational Health services are also likely to be disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 emergency situation. Therefore, teachers who are off work due to sickness and who are unable to return to work because of COVID-19 disruption, the teacher should not be penalised. Teachers should continue to follow the sickness absence reporting procedures applied by their employer.

Disabled teachers

Disabled teachers who have underlying health conditions should notify their employer and request to stay at home.

Where a disabled teacher is attending the workplace during the period of COVID-19 school closure, the employer continues to be responsible for applying all necessary reasonable adjustments for the teacher and should undertake appropriate risk assessments taking into account the repurposing of the school facility.

Pregnancy and maternity

Teachers who are pregnant should notify their employer and request to stay at home.

There should be no expectation or requirement placed on a teacher who is pregnant to take her maternity leave early due to COVID-19 school closure or because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus. The teacher’s rights in law are unaffected and she should not be forced to take her maternity leave on a date determined by her employer.

The UK Government’s guidance on coronavirus makes clear that pregnant women are a vulnerable group and employers are strongly encouraged to ensure that they stay at home and work remotely where possible. A teacher who is pregnant should be expected to stay at home and may be asked to work from home, without this impacting on her maternity leave entitlement, pay or other maternity rights.

During the period of COVID-19 school closure, the employer should continue to maintain contact with a teacher during the period of her maternity leave (keeping in touch). However, during the period of COVID-19 school closures, schools should consider contacting the teacher by telephone or video conference and avoid asking the teacher to come into the school.

Teachers’ pay

Teachers are entitled to continue to receive their full contractual pay as a result of the Government’s order to close schools.

Employers should ensure they are able to maintain their payroll operations in the event of extended COVID-19 disruption, and to ensure that all teachers are issued with monthly pay slips.

Teachers may still be required to attend schools to maintain provision for priority children. However, in many cases teachers will need to stay at home or be asked to work remotely. In some cases, some teachers may not be able to continue to work as a result of COVID-19 school closure. However, in all cases, teachers must be in receipt of full pay for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Performance management/appraisal

The NASUWT recognises that teachers are at the frontline in the UK’s fight against COVID-19 (coronavirus). Public health of the entire country depends on the continued commitment of teachers who are critical to the national efforts against the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain public health and public order.

In this context, the NASUWT insists that all schools ensure pay progression for every teacher who would otherwise be entitled to pay progression this year.

Teachers who are subject to performance management/appraisal should suffer no detriment as a result of COVID-19 school closure. The process of performance appraisal and pay progression decisions for 2020/21 and 2021/22 must not be deferred or otherwise delayed by schools.

Teachers who are entitled to access pay progression at the end of the academic year should expect to receive pay progression at the end of the performance cycle.

Initial teacher training/Initial teacher education and induction/probation

The NASUWT is aware of the significant anxiety and uncertainty the COVID-19 emergency has caused for those nearing the completion of their ITT/ITE programmes and for new teachers about its implications for the completion of induction or probation. The Union has, therefore, pressed all relevant bodies across the UK for clarity on these critical issues.

The NASUWT has produced advice and guidance on arrangements in England for Initial Teacher Training and Newly Qualified Teacher Induction.

The Union has also produced guidance on Induction and ITE in Wales and ITE and Probation in Scotland.

Further information is being sought on arrangements in Northern Ireland and guidance for members will be produced as soon as further details are available.

Assessment and qualifications

With the expectation of an extended period of COVID-19-related disruption, all public examinations and assessments have been cancelled across the UK.

The NASUWT is working with the awarding and regulatory across the UK bodies to ensure that the workload and other burdens on teachers are taken into account fully, given the impact on teacher supply where schools and teachers are impacted by COVID-19.

In respect of general qualifications, Ofqual has published detailed advice to centres in England and the NASUWT has provided advice on the implementation of this guidance. NASUWT advice is also available on equivalent arrangements in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This guidance also contains the latest available information on vocational and technical qualifications.

Across the UK, the NASUWT continues to press for clarity on arrangements for qualifications for the 2020/21 school and college year and to ensure that they are realistic and manageable for staff and learners.

Members will be kept fully up to date with developments on this critical issue.

Keeping in touch

During a period of national emergency, teachers and other staff will need to know where they can obtain information about decisions affecting their own workplace and deployment, staffing rotas and when decisions are made about the reopening of their schools.

Headteachers should establish with their staff communication protocols, which may include:

  • use of a staff group call system (e.g. SMS messaging/WhatsApp);
  • register of staff telephone contact details and email addresses.

Schools should consider a weekly email/text message notice or bulletin that will be issued to staff during the period of COVID-19 school closure.

Schools should notify parents of pupils on roll of how to access information, including updating the school website.

Under no circumstances should the personal email addresses or telephone numbers of teachers be shared with parents or pupils.