Government restrictions on social distancing, self-isolation for those who have received two vaccinations, and numbers attending events and workplaces, have all ended. The situation has obviously changed with the success of the vaccination programme offering protection to those who have been vaccinated.  However, case rates remain high and we must all still seek to ensure that appropriate safety measures remain in place.

Advice on safety

The joint trade union advice from NEU, Unison, GMB and Unite has been updated prior to September opening. This will help you understand the current DfE advice, identify the most important areas to be considered and ensure that appropriate risk assessments and safety measures continue to be in place for a safer workplace. Its principles apply to all education settings.

Conversations with employers about safety and future contingency planning will still be necessary for some time to come. Therefore, risk assessments (and contingency planning) should still be live and reps involved in discussions around college policies for events, learning and staff practices. Issues such as ventilation (see HSE guidance) should be discussed and steps taken to ensure a consensus around policies in the workplace. Policies around vaccinations for those under the age of 18 are also likely to change and college policies will need to reflect this.

The joint further education (FE) trade union guidance on risk assessments in colleges (also applicable to sixth form colleges and welcomed by the Sixth Form College Association (SFCA) agreed in 2020 is here. However, with restrictions now broadly lifted this guidance is now advisory. Current policy statements by NEU are therefore pertinent until any joint post-16 guidance is updated.

Support for members

Read our Q&A advice for members, including advice on safety measures, protection of staff at greater risk summer events and  supporting members with long Covid.

We must protect vulnerable and older members of staff who remain most at risk if they catch Covid-19. The specific joint union advice on other vulnerable and higher risk staff remains in place.

The NEU will provide support to members in any school or college where there are concerns about safety. Details of how to escalate matters in your workplace and if necessary contact your branch can be found here.

NEU Covid map

Use the NEU School & College Covid Map to see the rate of infections in your college area

It is very useful to be aware of the rates of infection in your college area and this can be found in the NEU Covid map which provides live data on your area.

This is the latest of weekly NEU reports on Covid-19 education data from the past week, drawing on ONS reports on regional patterns of Covid-19 cases,,deaths and hospitalisations, school attendance tracking & vaccination levels.

Recovery Education Hub

The Recovery Education Hub is your place to network with 450,000 NEU members to get advice, support each other and shape recovery education following the coronavirus pandemic. The hub aims to put education professionals at the heart of developing practice which supports teaching and learning during the months and years ahead.

NEU has released guidance on distance learning and is working with post-16 stakeholders to ensure this is improved upon for every college. The Association of Colleges website contains advice on teaching and learning practice and supporting material which can be found here. We will continue to support members on issues around remote learning.  For advice on working safely at home, see our guidance here.

Covid-19 testing

Advice on the Covid-19 testing system can be found here.

NEU continues to monitor government policy, the risk assessment sector guidance (below) and college behaviours (where necessary) with the joint trade unions and the AoC and DfE when relevant.

If you have any concerns regarding any of these areas of interest please contact us post16@neu.org.uk.

How is NEU supporting reps and members who may no longer in direct contact with one another in the workplace?

If you are a rep in a sixth form college there is an established virtual network that you can join. If you are a rep and not part of this network, please contact robert.phillips@neu.org.uk.

If you are a rep in a FE college, there is a growing and vibrant What’s App group you can join. Please contact norman.crowther@neu.org.uk for more information.

Please organise regional meetings with your regional reps who are on the national council for post-16 and your district committee post-16 placeholders.

There are regular national, post-16 Zoom meetings and other meetings you can join online. Please subscribe to the activist networks for more and please subscribe to emails and SMS from NEU to hear of any future meetings.

What should we do to ensure we are consulted by our college management about new working arrangements?

While working practices such as rotas and timetables, methods of remote learning and support for learners may now be different, changes should happen in consultation with NEU reps and members.

  • Reps should ask to be consulted on all changes to working practices before they are implemented and to be part of arrangements for ongoing monitoring and review. 
  • Reps must be included in all staff communications in order to avoid breakdowns in communications whilst working from home.
  • College managers should be asked to undertake, in consultation with reps, initiatives such as reviews of workload and work/life balance, stress surveys, and surveys on training needs relating to new working practices.
  • The guidance (and law) state that all health and safety reps be consulted whether in recognised or non-recognised workplaces.

How can I be protected from parental expectations around childcare, expected grades and student support?

To fully support learners’ staff will need further guidance, resources and different ways of working. The NEU will work with stakeholders on this issue and has issued this advice.

Can the college demand when I take my holidays?

The NEU does not agree that staff should be asked to take their holidays involuntarily. Any proposals must be discussed with trade unions. Of course, there may be reason for reviewing holiday periods, but this must not happen without consultation and agreement.

What other sources of information are available?

Information and guidance are changing rapidly at this time. You can keep update with the latest information on post 16 education and training including assessment, safety protocols and support for the sector on our website here NEU Post-16.

You may also find the following links helpful