Can I wear a mask/face covering in school when I am working closely with a SEND child?
The NEU’s position (in line with HSE advice) is that any member of staff should be permitted to wear a mask or face covering should they wish to do so. In this instance, this may be because of concerns about working closer than the recommended safe distancing with a child supporting their learning due to special educational needs or disability.
More broadly, the latest DfE advice states that schools and colleges have the discretion to require the use of face coverings in indoor areas where social distancing cannot be maintained, and it is seen as the right thing to do. In areas of national intervention, however, where transmission rates are high, the guidance states that in schools/colleges where students in Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around indoors, including in corridors and communal areas.
The NEU believes that this position is unclear and that the approach taken in Scotland and Northern Ireland should be adopted ie that face coverings should be worn in communal areas in all schools/colleges (not just those in areas where transmission rates are high) and that this should not be a matter of individual discretion for head teachers.
Some of the SEND students I work with in mainstream will find it difficult to adapt to new routines in September. Can they have a more phased return to school?
The DfE advice for both special and mainstream schools (Annex B of the DfE Guidance for schools) emphasises the Government view that all children should be back at school in September. It does, however, say that where students have challenging behaviours or social/emotional challenges arising as a response to lockdown a phased return may be appropriate.
The NEU believes that where, in discussion with parents/carers, a phased approach is seen to be in the best interests of a child then it should be used by schools; and the child and their family should receive appropriate support throughout the phased return period from the school SENCO and/or key worker. We would expect a blended learning approach to be used, if appropriate, in these cases.
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.
Most of the children in our school use dedicated school transport. How can we make sure they are safe?
Local authorities and schools should be working together to make arrangements for the safe use of dedicated school transport including carrying out risk assessments for different pupils and journeys as well as for drivers and escorts. Protocols for social distancing and agreed use of face coverings should be discussed as well as cleaning arrangements for vehicles.
The NEU joint checklist for schools includes questions to ask about safety on dedicated school transport.
I am an educational psychologist. How can myself and others, such as specialist teachers, keep safe when we are moving between schools?
The DfE advice states that peripatetic staff and specialist teachers can move between schools. The NEU recommends that you ask to see the safety precautions that each school has in place before attending. Where possible you may be able to continue some work using remote sources, particularly where medically vulnerable children continue their learning from home.
Ten points to support child mental health and wellbeing in primary and secondary schools as well as protecting mental health of staff in schools.