Our major priority, during this awful crisis, is the health and safety of our members who are continuing to go to work to care for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.
How can staff keep themselves as safe as possible in school?
The NEU checklist for special schools sets out issues to be considered and standards to be maintained for safe opening. The NEU has also issued further general advice for staff on safe working when in school. In special schools, there are additional challenges for some children in terms of social distancing and handwashing and a need to consider additional hygiene measures where staff have to support pupils with personal care during the day, such as changing nappies or pads, etc.
If our school does not have the staff ratios to support pupils safely should it be closed?
Yes. If the school cannot safely support pupils with the staff ratios and range of staff that are available to work, the leadership team has the discretion and ability to close the school. If anyone feels that this is the case, concerns should be discussed with the head teacher or senior leader on duty.
Where a head teacher deems a child or family to be at significant risk because of challenges in the home environment, linked to meeting the additional needs of the child full time, we advise the head to consider the feasibility of offering some days of respite in school. If this is not possible at their school, the head should seek advice from the local authority and should also discuss this with the parent/carer.
Should we take children’s temperature when they arrive at school?
Some special schools are taking the temperature of all children on arrival at school each day. Any child with a temperature over 37.5 and/or has symptoms of a cold or flu is sent home. If this is found to be the case during the day the child is safely isolated in school until their parent/carer can collect them. This helps staff to keep safe so that the school is able to remain open for the children of key workers.
Some of our pupils need personal care (changing etc). What can staff do to keep safe when doing this?
Whenever intimate personal care is provided staff must wear gloves and aprons; this should be considered a priority for personal protective equipment. Whether staff wear facemasks for undertaking personal care should be considered in individual risk assessment and discussion with the staff team. Some special schools, who are screening pupils by taking their temperature on arrival consider, in conjunction with school nurses, wearing masks to be unnecessary. However, advice from medical professionals in your school may differ. It is important that this is negotiated with staff providing personal care so that all staff remain safe.
How can we keep the school building clean and safe?
Because of the reduced number of pupils some special schools are only using some of the building space they have at certain times which allows for cleaning of the other spaces. Activity spaces are regularly rotated to allow for cleaning of equipment as well as toilets, floor etc.
As much outdoor play is encouraged as possible (maintaining social distancing) for all children attending school at this time. Children are also encouraged and supported to wash their hands regularly and for 20 seconds and staff should have frequent access to hand sanitiser and washing facilities.