Since 23rd March when employers and schools have been developing or implementing their plans to accommodate the children of key workers and vulnerable children, it has become evident that the following broad arrangements are emerging:
- organisation into hubs which may be one school in an area or a cluster of schools;
- leaving individual schools open where pupils have turned up for school;
- a mixed economy of hubs, sometimes for vulnerable pupils, and individual schools remaining open for children of critical workers.
It is important to remember that these hubs are for the provision of childcare they are not for education. Formal education has been closed by the Government. Schools are open for the care of vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers.
The queries that the NASUWT has received indicate that members’ views on hub arrangements are mixed.
Some members have been pressing for hubs to be set up to avoid large numbers of schools being open with only a handful of children in them and to reduce the number of times individual teachers need to be in the workplace, as the rota for the hubs can be shared among a wider number of staff.
Other members are concerned about hubs for a variety of reasons including not being familiar with the pupils and travel distance and want more individual schools open.
There are pros and cons with any of the care arrangements.
During the week beginning 23rd March, it is clear that in most local authorities an evaluation is taking place about the numbers of pupils who have turned up at school and that more local authorities and groups of schools may be reviewing their arrangements. Given that in some areas it appears that the numbers of pupils are lower than was anticipated there may be more moves towards hub arrangements.
Good practice in setting up hubs
Members and activists have told us that where hubs are working well the following are key features of the arrangements.
Prior consultation with the teachers and schools affected and full involvement in discussing the arrangements with the NASUWT and other unions.
The focusing of the hubs on clusters of schools which have an established practice of working together and collaborating.
The purpose of the hub arrangements should be to provide supervision and care for children who are in school.
Clarity about that the children who are eligible to access hub arrangements,should be limited to critical workers children and vulnerable children.
Risk assessments are conducted before any arrangements are finalised which include, as a minimum:
- the suitability of the premises for the age of pupils (e.g is a secondary site being used for primary age pupils) and the special needs of any vulnerable pupils;
- safeguarding procedures, including if the pupils are of a wider mixed age range than usual for example primary and secondary pupils on the same site;
- the practicalities of the site for stringent social distancing to be practised in the context of the anticipated number of pupils;
- suitability of the toilets and washing facilities for the age and number of pupils;
- frequency of cleaning of the premises;
- staffing ratios and the availability of staff. 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;
- access to contact details for pupils not normally at the school in case of an emergency and the safeguarding of personal data of pupils if staff who do not normally work with them need to be briefed on a particular child’s needs;
- emergency evacuation procedures;
- site security, identification of authorised personnel and controlling access to the premises, particularly when staff and pupils on site are not the usual users of the site;
- ensuring that all the provisions in the Government’s guidance can be met.
Holiday and out of hours provision - some hub arrangements are designed to provide wraparound supervision for children in the evenings, weekends and during the normal school holidays. Staff who agree voluntarily to support such provision should be advised how/whether they will be remunerated, entitlement to time off at other periods, and there should be clarity regarding insurances and indemnification. Teachers should not be compelled to work outside the prevailing terms of their employment contracts.
It should also be remembered that this is a time when staff and pupils are feeling particularly anxious and stressed and it is important that account is taken in any arrangements of the need to safeguard mental health and well-being.
Health and safety legislation and safeguarding provisions apply in these circumstances as they would in normal circumstances. The Government has made this clear.
For further advice for schools on dealing with COVID-19 school closures, please refer to our Operational Advice During Partial School Closures.