This National Education Union (NEU) advice should be read in conjunction with joint union checklist and guidance on September reopening and advice on medically vulnerable and higher risk groups to assist members and reps.  

  1. The NEU remain concerned by the data about the disproportionate effects and number of deaths due to Covid-19 for Black[1] populations.  The public health inquiry of June 2020 and The Office for National Statistics’ findings show a greater impact of the virus in areas of the country with wider health inequalities, higher rates of poverty and on Black communities even after health and deprivation is accounted for. 
  2. The supplementary Public Health England (PHE) report ‘Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of Covid-19 on BAME’ reported that the experience of racism and discrimination has made Black communities significantly more vulnerable. An analysis of survival among confirmed Covid-19 cases showed that, after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death when compared to people of white British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to white British.
  3. The supplementary report has seven recommendations which include calls for mandatory data collection; research into the social, cultural, structural, economic, religious, and commercial determinants of Covid-19;  culturally competent risk assessment tools and Covid-19 recovery strategies to actively reduce inequalities caused by the wider determinants of health to create long term sustainable change. It ends by saying fully funded, sustained and meaningful approaches to tackling racial inequalities must be prioritised. The NEU is calling for these recommendations to be considered by all educational settings and staff. 
  4. Black people are more likely to live in areas with increased rates of Covid-19 as the recent local lockdowns evidence.  The local authority areas which have been subject to local lockdowns such as Leicester and Luton typically have poorer socio-economic populations.  Continuing lockdowns will negatively affect access to employment and income and consequently nutrition and health and the already patchy access to technology for Black families.
  5. Black and poorer communities are also more likely to have comorbidities (such as hypertension, diabetes or coronary heart disease) that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19. As the Runnymede Trust report these facts are not necessarily a result of biology : they are more likely to be as a result of systemic inequalities affecting life conditions of place of residence, access to employment, what you can afford for healthy living and the mental conditions caused by racism or fear of racism. Currently over half of children from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are living in poverty. Covid-19 has amplified the economic and social inequalities.  A quarter of Black mothers reported that they were struggling to feed their children (23.7%).
  6. There are specific considerations for Black women (which may include Black education staff) who according to the study by the Women’s Budget Group reported that they were struggling to go to the shops or do other tasks because their children were home (43%);  Black women were most likely to report that they were struggling, and white men least likely; Black women were less likely to say that there were people outside of their household who they could rely on for help (47.4% compared to 57.2%); Life satisfaction and happiness were lowest for Black women, and anxiety was highest for all women compared to men.
  7. The NEU thinks that schools need to be alive to the circumstances that Black families find themselves in as outlined in the points above.  There is an increased risk also that parents and pupils will more anxious and suffering trauma as a result of losing relatives or friends. Additionally, Black people and communities regularly face stereotyping, bias and attitudes. It is important that the racial disparities within the pandemic are not discussed in schools in ways which reinforce stereotypes, such as stereotypes about migration or globalisation causing Covid-19.
  8. The NEU has published a series of posters for schools to share with parents/carers which signposts organisations offering help including where to report racist harassment, incidents or attacks. The NEU also wants to capture the hundreds of positive community initiatives which members are leading and co-ordinating. We are urging members to share these ideas, and other community responses, across their union networks to inspire others and share great practice.
  9. The DfE recognises that some groups including Black employees are at comparatively increased risk from Covid-19 and recommends that employers discuss with such staff the measures put in place to ensure their safety.  The NEU's advice calls on all employers to carry out individual risk assessments for employees which consider their personal circumstances, including any exacerbated risk from ethnicity and other factors such as age and sex and any co-morbidities. Employers should seek information proactively from each employee. 
  10. Employers should consider, as part of such risk assessments, what protective measures are needed to ensure it is safe for the employee personally to attend the workplace.  Any Black members who are concerned about their personal vulnerability (for example because of an underlying health condition) and the measures proposed should speak to their NEU workplace representative or contact the NEU Advice Line. 

[1] Note: The NEU uses the term Black as a political and inclusive term of unity to signify the anti-racist organising all people of colour – African, African Caribbean, Asian and all those that face racism as a result of the colour of their skin.