The union supports the concept of regular mass testing for staff and students as one of the measures to help prevent schools and colleges becoming Covid-19 hot spots. This is an important control measure following the return to full opening in March.
Advice on safety in schools
The Government announced on 22 February that all students will return to school or college in England on Monday 8 March. The NEU believes that this ‘big bang’ approach, in contrast to the more phased approaches in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, is reckless and that, whilst we are committed to bringing back all children and young people to the classroom as soon as possible, this will be counterproductive if an incautious return leads to another surge in the virus, and the potential for a further period of lockdown. Wider opening must be safe and sustainable.
We urged the Prime Minister to commit to 8 March only if the scientific evidence was absolutely clear that this is safe, and at that point to go no further than a phased return of children and young people with sufficient time to assess the impact before moving to the next phase. This advice has not been heeded.
Our focus now is on ensuring that the return to full opening happens as safely as possible. Protective measures need to be strengthened. We are asking school leaders to make professional judgements on the pattern of return for pupils in their school and look at ways of staggering the return of year groups in the run up to Easter.
Support for members
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.
Advice on safety
This updated joint union advice considers the measures which need to be in place in schools and colleges. It aims to help ensure that risk assessments are reviewed and covers measures which need to be addressed to reflect the known greater transmissibility of the new variant and meet the requirements of full opening. The joint union checklist for full opening in September 2020 (insert new link) remains relevant for guidance on more detailed measures that should continue to be in place.
We must protect vulnerable and older members of staff who are most at risk if they catch Covid-19. The joint union advice on other vulnerable and higher risk staff remains in place and can be found here.
The NEU expects the following to be in place in all education workplaces when they return to full opening:
- a review of all risk assessments, in consultation with staff, in the light of the much higher transmission of the new variant;
- measures to maintain distancing and minimise mixing in classrooms and other indoor areas;
- face coverings worn indoors at all times, including in classrooms, by staff and students in secondary and by staff in primary and SEND settings, with any necessary exemptions;
- clinically extremely vulnerable staff to be working at home in accordance with government requirements, and other clinically vulnerable staff, those aged 60 and over and women who in the third trimester of pregnancy to be working from home as well.
Arrangements should provide for the employment of supply and peripatetic staff where appropriate, rather than putting obstacles in the way of this.
Remote learning arrangements
There will continue to be a role for remote learning for the duration of the pandemic. The Union’s advice on arrangements for remote learning can be found here.
Advice on the Covid-19 testing system can be found here Coronavirus: testing in schools and colleges | NEU
COVID-19 map for schools
What you need to know
Covid-19 safety in schools. These are minimum standards for keeping everyone safe and ensuring reasonable working conditions.
Advice on workload and working in school or at home during the coronavirus crisis.
What you need to know on supporting vulnerable students and staff during the coronavirus crisis.
NEU advice on what you need to know during the coronavirus crisis.
Adopting rota systems in secondary schools and colleges can provide continuous education while helping to suppress the virus.
NEU advice to members to ensure that arrangements are safe and appropriate whether students and staff are working at home or at school.
The NEU is committed to helping you ensure safety in the workplace for all staff and students in schools and colleges during this very challenging time.
Guide for National Education Union workplace representatives.
Guide for National Education Union officers on how to support your members during coronavirus
Information, advice and resources for NEU Cymru members.
Information, advice and resources for NEU Northern Ireland members.