1. The law requires employers to supply PPE where there are risks to health and safety that cannot adequately be controlled in other ways.
  2. The DfE position is that education staff do not require PPE, which is only needed by medical and care professionals providing specific close contact care or procedures that create airborne risk. According to the DfE, PPE is only needed where pupils in residential special schools and colleges develop symptoms and isolation is needed in line with the guidance on isolation for residential educational settings.
  3. The NEU accepts that PPE is not essential for staff working in most schools where social distancing and hygiene precautions are being properly applied, given that students and staff exhibiting any symptoms at all should not be in school. 
  4. However, we believe that the DfE has failed to fully understand the risks to staff working in some settings where the risks are far greater.
  5. The NEU is therefore calling on the Government to ensure that PPE is available for school staff at significant risk of airborne contamination, due to necessary close personal contact with students who can't control behaviour such as spitting, coughing or sneezing.  This means providing PPE for all severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties schools, and for other special schools where risk assessments show that students' behaviour poses these risks.
  6. Where pupils rely on staff help to manage their self-care successfully, and those staff are at risk of being coughed, sneezed or spat on, then these are clearly circumstances in which social distancing precautions cannot be maintained and there is a far greater risk of infection.
  7. Young people whose behaviour means they pose a risk of transmitting the virus through the air may be COVID-19 carriers without showing symptoms. Many will have parents working in the NHS who may themselves be at greater risk of becoming infected. 
  8. Advice about washing hands and enhanced cleaning is not sufficient to protect the staff working in these circumstances.
  9. We are concerned that the DfE policy may have been drawn up in response to the lack of availability of certain items of PPE, rather than because it offers the best possible protection to staff.
  10. The NEU has therefore called upon the DfE to revise its guidance on PPE, to make it clear that it will be provided as above, that it can and should be worn in such cases, to advise on the most appropriate PPE to be worn and to describe how to put it on and take it off safely.