Safety update

  • Ventilation advice
  • Protecting those at greatest risk
  • Staffing issues
  • Behaviour
  • Advice


On ventilation, the DfE has published its 'Marketplace' to help schools purchase air purifiers. The Marketplace is available for all state funded schools (primary and secondary), FE colleges and early years settings.  Alongside the Marketplace, the DfE has also published ‘how to’ guidance on using an air cleaning unit.

The NEU urges schools to be extremely wary of this Marketplace.  It offers only two expensive models (Dyson and Camfil) when there are other makes and models available at a fraction of the cost.  Given the nature of the Omicron threat, the Government should be fully funding these devices and at the very least should be helping cash strapped schools to get best value for money. We will continue to press the Government on this and have asked the schools minister why they are just promoting these two companies.

The NEU is not able to endorse any specific models or companies, but this list does offer a wider range of options so schools may find it useful to consult it before making any decisions on purchases.

Protecting those at greatest risk

The NEU continues to believe that measures must be taken to protect staff defined as clinically extremely vulnerable and others at the greatest risk – read our guidance on conducting individual risk assessments and our joint union advice on higher risk groups.

We know you will recognise the need for full consultation with staff on measures to ensure safety. The NEU is working nationally on behalf of all education leaders, while our joint union guidance and other advice will help ensure safety in your particular school or college.

      Staffing matters

      The NEU will continue to provide advice to leader members in relation to staffing matters. 

      Where staff are absent, please follow our guidance on pay and sick pay. Make it clear that you intend to do so, and that absences will not be counted for sickness monitoring purposes. Be flexible and generous with leave of absence for those who need to care for others. This pandemic is not over - staying alert to the virus dangers and remaining kind and showing empathy towards those you lead remains vital.

      Make sure you consider all those at particular potential risk, and don’t assume you know everything about everyone – ask people if they have information to volunteer about themselves. Respect the medical advice they receive – and their own views and fears.

      Please also establish arrangements which ensure you can continue to use supply staff to cover vacancies. This will continue to help casual supply staff cope with some very difficult months. 

      The NEU’s previous advice on continuing to employ supply staff while the national furlough scheme operates is still in place. Please ensure you treat directly-employed or agency-employed supply staff in line with the Department for Education (DfE) advice as outlined here

      The NEU continues to call for all employers to agree that all eligible staff should receive pay progression automatically. Decisions cannot realistically be taken this year by reference to objectives set before the crisis. This approach should have been reflected both in appraisal or performance management discussions and pay outcomes from the 2019/20 academic year. All employers should continue to properly reflect the impact of Coronavirus in discussions on objectives for 2020/21 and in mid-year reviews.

        Behaviour policy

        The DfE has published a behaviour and attendance checklist for school leaders to support them to reengage all pupils from the autumn term. The DfE checklist provides some welcome reminders which the NEU supports, including the following recommendations:

        • Time to train staff in new behaviour expectations. To ensure all staff are trained properly, school leaders should consider whether a more flexible or phased return is appropriate.
        • Have an open dialogue with parents about safety etc. Given the time constraints, schools may need to work with parents who have particular concerns about their child’s safety more flexibly at the start of term.
        • Work with local authorities/health teams to ensure a smooth return for SEND pupils.
        • Training for Dedicated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) and pastoral leads to spot signs of pupil distress and poor mental health.

        Please seek to ensure that you consult with staff, parents and students despite the time constraints associated with this advice.

          Other advice to help you as a leader