The National Education Union, National Association of Head Teachers and Association of School and College leaders have teamed up to provide their members with joint guidance on the coronavirus crisis.
The joint nature of the guidance means that leaders, classroom teachers and support staff in the three unions are getting the same advice.
Here are seven important points for schools that we pulled out of the guidance.
1. Don’t monitor staff performance
The guidance states that schools “should not be formally monitoring staff performance during this period”.
The unions say teachers should also not be asked to personally contact individual pupils on a daily basis, except when such contact has been agreed with headteachers for vulnerable children.
Teachers should not use personal phones or emails, and all staff and pupils should be reminded of the school’s policies on safe internet usage.
“Schools should also consider setting out a clear statement for parents which details the school’s approach to any home learning and protocols for communication between school and home,” the guidance continues.
Until confirmation comes about teacher assessments, teachers “should not be setting exam-related work for year 11 and 13 students, grading and marking it, collating ‘portfolios’, and/or doing predicted grades”.
2. Halt redundancies and disciplinary matters
School leaders should, “wherever possible”, consult with union representatives before publishing protocols and consider comments from staff generally when keeping those protocols under review, the guidance states.
The unions have also warned that during this period it is “not possible” to proceed on matters “such as reorganisation/redundancy or academy conversion which require meaningful consultation in order to meet the law’s requirements”.
Schools should also not proceed on disciplinary, capability or grievance matters which require hearings and representation.
“In the most serious disciplinary cases, suspension on full pay may be necessary to facilitate this.”
3. Don’t make teachers come in to clean if there’s no pupils
According to the guidance, teachers should not be asked to be on site if they are not looking after pupils.
For example, they should not be asked to attend full staff meetings, clean cupboards or take down down displays “because this increases their exposure to the virus
and endangers the NHS”.
Supply teachers must be “fairly treated” – kept in post, supported if unable to work and employed as part of local authorities’ response to the crisis.
4. Inform staff when over Easter they will work
School staff should know when they are expected to work (either in school or at home) and when they are on holiday during the Easter break, the unions say.
Staff who are on holiday should not be expected to keep in touch because they need “time to switch off and physically and mentally recuperate”, and holidays should be operated on a rota basis so staff get two weeks off, “either before, during or after the period when the school would normally be closed for Easter”.
The unions are also not expecting schools to be open on Good Friday or Easter Monday.
5. Only healthy and low-risk staff should be in
The guidance states that school staff who are “healthy and not in a highrisk vulnerable group” can be called upon to be in school, but should be consulted first on whether they are able to work.
Staff with health conditions that make them vulnerable to being badly affected if they catch the virus, and those who live with someone in the most vulnerable health groups, “should not be included on staff rotas for working in school”.
It comes after 25 per cent of teachers and leaders said in a recent Teacher Tapp survey that somebody in their direct household is considered high-risk if they contract COVID-19.
6. Staff cannot ‘home school’ the nation’s children
With exams, tests and Ofsted inspections cancelled, the guidance reminds schools that “this is not education as we have known it”.
Schools are being reminded that children will have “very different” home lives and levels of parental support, and that it is “not feasible to carry on as before during this crisis”.
“We cannot ‘home school’ the nation’s children,” the guidance continues.
Children will not follow a normal timetable, and while schools are starting to put in place processes and resources to support home learning, it is “not reasonable, or feasible for schools to continue to provide a ‘normal’ school education during this time”.
A recent Teacher Tapp survey found that 47 per cent of teachers and leaders believe the average year 8 pupil is learning for between one and two hours a day, while 39 per cent say they are learning for less than an hour.
Meanwhile, 62 per cent of respondents said they thought the average year 8 pupil SHOULD be learning for between one and two hours per day, while 29 per cent said three or four hours. Just 5 per cent said less than an hour and 2 per cent said between five and six hours.
7. Full closures ‘may be necessary’
The guidance reminds school leaders that it is up to them to make decisions about whether to keep their schools open.
If schools don’t have enough staff to care for pupils safely, even based on the new reduced provision approach, then full or partial closure “may be necessary”. This must be subject to a risk assessment and done in consultation with chairs of governors.
“Schools will need to keep this decision under daily review and should inform their local authority if they are not able to open.”