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

Read our Q&A advice 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:

  • 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

Covid-19 testing

Advice on the Covid-19 testing system can be found here Coronavirus: testing in schools and colleges | NEU

COVID-19 map for schools

Covid-19 rate map for schools aim to make coronavirus data easily available to parents and staff. Share the website, contact your MP, and share our demands for greater safety in schools.

What you need to know

Specific advice

  • Graphical representation of Covid-19
    Coronavirus guidance and FAQs

    NEU advice to members to ensure that arrangements are safe and appropriate whether students and staff are working at home or at school.

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    Coronavirus - leadership advice

    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.

  • Graphical representation of Covid-19
    Coronavirus: officers

    Guide for National Education Union officers on how to support your members during coronavirus

  • Map of Cymru
    NEU Cymru

    Information, advice and resources for NEU Cymru members.