Two swings over a puddle of water

Severe winter weather and flooding in schools

The risk of severe flooding means schools not only face potential damage to their buildings but also staff and students may be at risk, including on the journey between home and school.

During any prolonged spell of severe cold, stormy or snowy weather, issues arise on which members and health and safety representatives need advice, particularly concerning school closure.

All educational establishments can improve their readiness and planning for severe weather by signing up for the Met Office’s severe weather warning system.

How schools should respond to flood alerts:

  • Stay Informed: Keep a close eye on local news reports, radio, and television for flood warnings. Stay updated with the Environment Agency's "Flooding Updates"
  • Follow Official Advice: Pay attention to guidance from the Environment Agency, local authorities, and emergency services. This advice applies even if your location seems unaffected, as travel recommendations may change.
  • Contact Floodline: Dial 0345 988 1188 to reach the Environment Agency's Floodline for up-to-date information.
  • Review Major Incident Plan: Scrutinise your school's "Major Incident Plan" to ensure its adequacy and proper consultation with safety representatives.
  • Liaise with Emergency Services: If evacuation may be necessary, coordinate with emergency services.
  • Inform Parents: Use established communication channels to inform parents about possible evacuations and closures.
  • Practical measures in response to flooding threat:
  • Electrical Safety: Unplug and relocate electrical items to upper floors or high shelves to prevent damage and accidents.
  • Gas Leak: In case of a suspected gas leak, call the 24-hour gas emergency service at 0800 111 999. Turn off the gas supply if safe to do so, and avoid operating electrical switches or using mobile phones. No smoking or matches.
  • Safety First: Never jeopardise the safety of staff or pupils. Avoid walking or driving through floodwater and steer clear of contact with it, as it may be contaminated.
  • Asbestos Awareness: Consult the asbestos management plan to identify vulnerable areas in the school and ensure safety precautions.

Whilst it is fair enough to expect staff, particularly those who are very local, to make reasonable attempts to get to work, head teachers/principals should not expect staff to ignore official advice not to travel and put themselves at risk.  In our view ‘essential travel’ is that which is needed to protect people, for example, medical or emergency services, gritting services, food supplies etc.

If the school has been closed because it has been deemed unsafe or inappropriate for pupils to attend, then staff should not be expected to attend work. Staff are likely to be affected by travelling difficulties in similar ways to students, and poor conditions within the school, for instance, frozen pipes, would present an unacceptable working environment for staff too.

No, this would be unreasonable, given that term dates are published more than 12 months in advance and that staff and parents will in many cases have made holiday plans. Contact your local district secretary if this is proposed.

There is a statutory right to take unpaid leave of absence for family and domestic reasons for incidents involving employees’ dependants. In addition, there may also be a contractual entitlement to a certain number of days’ paid leave under a local special leave agreement. 

Schools should look generously upon requests for paid leave of absence in these exceptional circumstances, particularly given that education staff cannot take annual leave in the way that other employees can.

As far as pay is concerned, the NEU will challenge any attempts to withhold pay from staff who are genuinely unable to attend work.

No. Such tasks are only part of the duties of the premises staff.

No. It would not be helpful for schools to have strangers turning up offering their services. The issue of DBS checks makes this impracticable. 

Schools need to make closure decisions early in the morning or the previous evening.  Such decisions cannot be made based on the off-chance that other staff might be available to help out.

Depending on the number of toilets available and how quickly the problem can be remedied.  A lack of toilets (and also warm water for handwashing) can quickly become a health issue.

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