Shropshire NEU Branch
Briefing for NEU Reps
Subject: Coronavirus and the impact on school Christmas update
This page is being updated this week and will reflect guidance out before Christmas
The NEU’s advice to members is that it is, in our view, unsafe for you to attend the workplace at present. We have written to all employers and all head teachers and principals giving this same advice and asking them to make preparations for a move to remote learning instead.
This advice applies to all primary and secondary schools, special schools and SEND settings, colleges and early years settings.
The NEU’s advice is that you should decide to advise your head teacher or principal that you will not be attending the workplace but will be available to work remotely from home. We are providing a model letter for to send to your head teacher or principal which you can access here.
When sending this letter, you will also be asserting your legal right to be protected against any detrimental action by your employer. This right is explained in full in the model letter.
Our advice applies for at least the first two weeks of term, the same period for which secondary schools and some primary schools have already been instructed by Government to move to remote learning
The NEU is issuing this advice after careful consideration of the advice which was apparently given to the Government by the SAGE advisory group and the current position on infection rates. We have issued a public statement on these matters which you can read here.
Safety in schools and colleges
We understand that SAGE has advised the Government that schools should move to remote learning in order to help reduce the rate of spread of the Covid-19 virus. The NEU supports and endorses this and has called for this advice to be made public.
The advice given by SAGE has only been adopted in relation to secondary schools and to primary schools in some Tier 4 areas. Given the overall increase in infection rates, however, we believe it is unsafe for schools and colleges to reopen in any area at present.
Infection rates are far higher than at the end of last term. This increase has been promoted by the new variant of the Covid-19 virus which was not properly understood at that time. These developments mean, in our view, that the risk assessments in place in schools and colleges at the end of last term cannot now be relied on by employers to demonstrate that workplaces are safe in these changed circumstances. We are calling on all employers in all schools and colleges, whatever their age group they serve and whatever the local tier of restrictions, to review their risk assessments and safety measures before asking employees to return to the workplace.
Face to face provision
We accept that schools and colleges may need to provide face to face provision for vulnerable students and the children of key workers and are also expected to open for some exam groups. This should, however, only happen after risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety, including for necessary social distancing and limits on group sizes. It is likely that many schools and colleges will not, as a consequence, be able to provide this provision on Monday 4 January even for these students.
We are advising members that they should agree to make themselves available to attend the workplace to support these students on a rota basis. This advice is, however, subject to the advice given in the next paragraph.
Key safety points
We expect the following to be in place in all education workplaces if and when they admit students:
- a review of all risk assessments in the light of the much higher transmission of the new variant;
- social distancing of 1 metre between pupils in all schools and colleges to replace the current practice of cohort distancing which allows whole year groups to mix without any social distancing;
- masks to be worn by pupils and staff in secondary school classrooms and colleges;
- school and college staff to be made a top priority for vaccination - along with health care staff and starting with the most vulnerable; and
- until vaccinated, Clinically Extremely Vulnerable staff and women in the third trimester of pregnancy to work from home, supporting students who are at home.
The NEU will provide complete support to members in any school or college where the above minimum requirements are not in place.
Petition the Government to make schools and colleges safe and protect communities
We have launched a public petition calling on the Government to use this period of remote learning to:
- establish the rate of transmission of the new variant of the virus amongst students and from students to their parents in order to help keep families safe; and
- establish measures to keep schools and colleges more “Covid secure” such as the introduction of proper mass testing with adequate time and resource to ensure the effective role out of testing, the vaccination starting with the most vulnerable, and the establishment of rotas where possible to help with social distancing.
We will contact you again shortly with further information. In the meantime, please use the model letter to notify your head teacher or principal of your position.
Guidance for full opening: schools - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)Guidance for full opening: schools - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)Guidance for full opening: schools - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)Guidance for full opening: schools - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)Guidance for full opening: schools - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Letter for Head Teachers