Through our Coronavirus: advice for fuller opening the NEU is seeking to ensure that the  full opening of schools and colleges on 8 March happen as safely as possible.

As a peripatetic worker, your safety should be considered both by your own employer and by the employer in control of any premises which you may be visiting. Risk assessments should be conducted to consider the risks to you, and the protective measures which need to be taken to help you work in safety.

Steps to be taken by employers in control of premises

For every school, there should be a risk assessment (conducted in consultation with staff) which sets out the measures in place for minimising contact and maintaining social distancing; arrangements for enhanced ventilation; cleaning; hand washing and respiratory hygiene; for use of protective equipment; testing and for managing suspected and actual cases of the virus. It should also set out contingency plans if full opening needs to be rolled back in the future.  Protective measures should be considered for, and applied to, visiting staff as well as those permanently based in that school or college.

The NEU  believes that:

  • the school’s risk assessment and procedures should take proper account of visiting workers;
  • arrangements should be in place to ensure that supply and peripatetic workers and their employers are informed about the school’s procedures and that visiting workers are supported in respect of safety measures when in school;
  • procedures should ensure that authorised visitors, such as peripatetic staff, can access the premises without undue delay; and
  • everyone in the school community (including visiting workers) should be told not to come into school if they have Covid-19 symptoms or have tested positive in the last 7 days and to self-isolate for 10 days and arrange to be tested if they develop symptoms.

The NEU is asking schools and colleges to ensure they adopt a policy that supply and peripatetic workers are continued to be employed as necessary, in order to ensure such staff are able to continue to offer support as needed.

Steps to be taken by your own employer

Your own employer also has legal duties to ensure your safety at work even where they are not the employer which controls the school or workplace being visited.  Your employer, whether it is a local authority or trust, agency or private company, has overall responsibility for your health and safety. It must be satisfied that the workplace in which you will be working offers a safe working environment generally but also that your own specific working arrangements will be safely managed. This will require liaison between your line manager and the schools and colleges that you visit to check that safe working for visiting staff has been adequately addressed as part of the risk assessment and that adequate protective measures are in place and will be communicated to you.

If you are self-employed, then the employer in control of the premises still has the legal duties described above to ensure your health and safety.

Medically vulnerable or higher risk staff

If you are medically vulnerable or otherwise at higher risk, or live with people who are, your employer should conduct a specific individual risk assessment which considers your circumstances and appropriate measures to protect you which might include working at home. Further NEU guidance for members in such groups is available here.

Peripatetic staff face particular hazards associated with their working pattern

These can include:

  • Attending more than one educational setting in a day.
  • Working across more than one bubble in each setting. (Government guidance is that teachers and other staff can operate across different classes and year groups in order to facilitate the delivery of the school timetable but at the same time schools must do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing.)
  • Travel between settings.

Each of these factors increases the number of contacts and potential for mixing during the working day, and your employer should consider how these risks could be mitigated.

  • Can your engagements be carried out without visiting the school or college?
  • Can your working pattern be arranged so that, as far as possible, you make one longer visit to each school, rather than visiting the same school on more than one separate occasion?
  • Is it possible to limit your work to, for example, a maximum of one or two schools per day?
  • Will your employer provide an FFP2 or FFP3 mask to mitigate the risk of moving between bubbles/schools?  Will you at least be wearing a three-layered face covering which fits snugly and covers both mouth and nose at all times whilst indoors?
  • Is it possible for schools to store your resources safely between visits, rather than requiring you to transport them?
  • When working in a school, how can you be accommodated to carry out your role with as little movement as possible across bubbles? If your role is a teaching role, is it possible to use a blended learning approach with a mixture of virtual and on-site teaching to help in this respect?
  • If you have been classified as clinically extremely vulnerable, will you be working from home until at least 31 March according to Government advice?   
  • If  your work creates a significant risk due to necessary close personal contact with students who can’t control behaviour such as spitting, coughing or sneezing, will PPE be provided as part of the risk assessment?
  • If you cannot drive between settings, how can your use of public transport be minimised? Minimising movement during the day will help in this respect, as will engagements in locations within walking distance of each other.
  • Waiving any requirement to return to the base/office as frequently as usual will also reduce the levels of travel.
  • Issuing laptops will also reduce the need to return to the office/base as well as supporting virtual learning and meetings.

Testing for peripatetic/supply staff

Peripatetic and supply staff should be included in the home testing arrangements for all staff. When working on a daily or part day basis, you should be offered testing on arrival. If you test positive, we would expect that you continue to be paid for the assignment.

Visiting students in their home

As a general principle, the number of home visits should be minimised and only take place when their purpose cannot be achieved through, for example, a phone call, on-line meeting or meeting at another venue.

No visit should take place until the employer has undertaken a specific risk assessment for that visit in consultation with the worker undertaking the visit. This should also consider whether you are at greater risk due to factors such as sex, age, ethnicity, or underlying medical conditions and whether the risks can be sufficiently mitigated with protective measures.

Employers should take steps to ensure that test kits are provided to secondary age pupils and their families, if home visiting is to take place.  The test could then be done in the morning before the visit takes place, with arrangements made to ensure the teacher is notified of any positive results in time to cancel the visit.

Even if the risk assessment determines that PPE is not required, anyone conducting a home visit should  wear an FFP2/FFP3 mask or 3-layered face covering.

Before the visit takes place

  • Liaison should take place with the student and their family to seek agreement to maintain social distance of 2 metres during the visit and to let them know  you will be wearing a face mask/covering or PPE if applicable.
  • If the family/student is deemed likely to not comply with social distancing, generally the visit should not go ahead. In some circumstances the risk assessment may conclude that it is safe to go ahead if appropriate PPE is used. In such cases the PPE must be provided by the employer and training given on its use and disposal.
  • The health status of the household should be checked on the day of the visit to establish: if anyone in the household has confirmed Covid-19, symptoms (including a dry persistent cough, raised temperature, sore throat or loss of taste/smell), or is self-isolating. If so, then the visit should not go ahead.
  • The student, and household members, where appropriate, should wear masks as well.

During the Visit

  • Any PPE used should be used in accordance with training given.
  • On arrival hands should be sanitised.
  • You should continue to wear your mask/face covering at all times.
  • If possible, you should ask that windows, or doors where appropriate, be kept open.
  • You should keep 2 metres away from the student where possible.
  •  As far as possible you should not put personal items down on surfaces.
  • Offers of food or drink should be politely turned down.
  • If you begin to feel unsafe/uncomfortable because of the behaviour of anyone in the household, the visit should be ended immediately.

After the visit

  • Equipment used during the visit, for example phones, laptops and books, should be sanitised.
  • Hands should be washed/sanitised on departure.
  • Any PPE used should be disposed of according to employer instructions.