Coronavirus: Borrow teachers from other schools or use TAs to address shortages, schools told

Schools should use teachers from other schools or “experienced” teaching assistants if they don’t have enough staff to teach returning pupils from June 1, new Department for Education guidance states.

The DfE has this evening published a “planning guide for primary schools”, which sets out a step-by-step approach to reopening schools. The DfE claims it has been “designed by school leaders for school leaders”.

However, schools are “not required to use this guide, and may choose to follow alternative approaches to preparing for wider opening, or to use some sections of this guidance alongside other approaches”.

This is despite members of the two leadership unions ASCL and NAHT having called for clear directions from the government.

The guidance tells heads that after preparing their sites, they should audit their staff “to ascertain who will be available to be in school from the week commencing June 1”.

Staff who are “clinically extremely vulnerable” will not be required to attend work, and staff who are “clinically vulnerable”, including pregnant women, should work from home “if possible”, or be offered the “safest onsite roles” and remain two metres from others if they cannot work from home

Schools are then being asked to work out how large their temporary teaching groups will be.

But if they do not have the staff available to cover all the new teaching groups created, schools “will need to consider possible solutions with your local authority and/or trust”.

Possible approaches include bringing in supply teachers, teachers on “temporary agreed loan” from other schools, or teachers “provided by your trust or local authority”.

The DfE also says that schools could ask “suitably experienced teaching assistants who are willing to do so to work with groups under the supervision of a teacher”, or use some senior leadership time to cover groups.

However, the guidance states that headteachers should “consider your own workload and that of your senior colleagues to make sure this is manageable and you have sufficient leadership time remaining”.

If schools still can’t get enough cover in place and an arrangement which enables eligible children to attend consistently at another local school is not manageable, they should “focus first on continuing to provide places for priority groups of all year groups (children of critical workers and vulnerable children)”.

After that, the guidance tells settings to prioritise pupils as follows.

  • early years settings – 3 and 4 year olds followed by younger age groups
  • infant schools – nursery (where applicable) and reception
  • primary schools – nursery (where applicable), reception and year 1

Schools “should not plan on the basis of a rota system, either daily or weekly,” the guidance states.

If staff are anxious about coming into school, the DfE states it to “always best to work out a sensible way forward in individual cases that acknowledges any specific anxieties but which also enables the school’s responsibilities to be effectively discharged”.

“If you need support in finding a solution, speak to your local authority or trust.”