School and college opening from September 2021
The challenges posed by this pandemic are still very real. Please be assured that the NEU will continue to make every effort to support its leadership members as you continue to work to maintain students' education in the face of this crisis.
New joint union advice for September
Although many restrictions have been removed, the Government still expects leaders and education employers to continue to take appropriate and necessary measures in September.
We want to do all that we can to support you to put in place appropriate measures for September that will keep students and staff safe. We hope you will endorse and share our approach. It is clear that Government guidance permits you to adopt appropriate measures in addition to their minimal requirements. Read our new joint checklist and our advice for leaders on conducting a risk assessment to help you review your risk assessments and adopt measures for the new academic year.
Investing in improved ventilation
It is now well accepted that good ventilation can reduce airborne Covid-19 risks; and the Government has now responded to NEU and SAGE calls for financial support for CO2 monitoring equipment. The Health and Safety Executive advises that, while CO2 levels are not a direct measure of possible exposure to Covid-19, using a monitor can help identify poorly ventilated areas and also advises that classrooms are well suited to this type of monitoring.
Read our new joint union advice on means of securing effective ventilation. We are campaigning for further financial support to support necessary investment in ventilation and air cleaning technologies. Investment in clean air will continue to reap benefits even when the risks from Covid-19 recede.
Protecting those at greatest risk
The NEU continues to believe that measures must be taken to protect staff defined as clinically extremely vulnerable and others at the greatest risk – read our guidance on conducting individual risk assessments and our joint union advice on higher risk groups.
We know you will recognise the need for full consultation with staff on measures to ensure safety. The NEU is working nationally on behalf of all education leaders, while our joint union guidance and other advice will help ensure safety in your particular school or college.
The NEU will continue to provide advice to leader members in relation to staffing matters.
Where staff are absent, please follow our guidance on pay and sick pay. Make it clear that you intend to do so, and that absences will not be counted for sickness monitoring purposes. Be flexible and generous with leave of absence for those who need to care for others. This pandemic is not over - staying alert to the virus dangers and remaining kind and showing empathy towards those you lead remains vital.
Make sure you consider all those at particular potential risk, and don’t assume you know everything about everyone – ask people if they have information to volunteer about themselves. Respect the medical advice they receive – and their own views and fears.
Please also establish arrangements which ensure you can continue to use supply staff to cover vacancies. This will continue to help casual supply staff cope with some very difficult months.
The NEU’s previous advice on continuing to employ supply staff while the national furlough scheme operates is still in place. Please ensure you treat directly-employed or agency-employed supply staff in line with the Department for Education (DfE) advice as outlined here.
The NEU continues to call for all employers to agree that all eligible staff should receive pay progression automatically. Decisions cannot realistically be taken this year by reference to objectives set before the crisis. This approach should have been reflected both in appraisal or performance management discussions and pay outcomes from the 2019/20 academic year. All employers should continue to properly reflect the impact of Coronavirus in discussions on objectives for 2020/21 and in mid-year reviews.
The DfE has published a behaviour and attendance checklist for school leaders to support them to reengage all pupils from the autumn term. The DfE checklist provides some welcome reminders which the NEU supports, including the following recommendations:
- Time to train staff in new behaviour expectations. To ensure all staff are trained properly, school leaders should consider whether a more flexible or phased return is appropriate.
- Have an open dialogue with parents about safety etc. Given the time constraints, schools may need to work with parents who have particular concerns about their child’s safety more flexibly at the start of term.
- Work with local authorities/health teams to ensure a smooth return for SEND pupils.
- Training for Dedicated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) and pastoral leads to spot signs of pupil distress and poor mental health.
Please seek to ensure that you consult with staff, parents and students despite the time constraints associated with this advice.