· those who have developed a consistent cough or fever
· those who are in one of the vulnerable groups identified by the government
· those who live with, or care for someone, in one of the vulnerable groups
Briefing for NEU Reps
Subject: Coronavirus update: school closure
The purpose of this briefing is to update members on the latest situation and NEU advice, following the government’s decision to ask schools to close until further notice, other than for the most vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
It is important to note that the government decision is based on reducing the occupancy rate of school buildings to around 10%, and to increase the number of people working at home.
Government advice is that anyone who can work at home should do so and anyone who can keep their child at home should do so – NHS workers are asking people to stay at home if at all possible.
ALL decisions about school opening and staffing levels should flow from that. It would make no sense for all staff to be at work – that would defeat the object of the exercise, which is to minimise travel and contact.
1. WHO SHOULD BE WORKING FROM HOME?
There are three groups of staff, who should definitely be working from home:
2. WHICH CHILDREN SHOULD BE IN SCHOOL?
The only children in school from next Monday should be children of key workers, or other vulnerable children, who really can’t find an alternative. We are driving down the number of children in school to stop the spread of the virus.
3. ORGANISING CHILDCARE FOR THOSE IN SCHOOL
Once the school has established the number of children who will be attending, the head should determine the minimum number of staff needed to provide safe childcare for them. This may mean asking staff to volunteer or be on a rota. The NEU is encouraging members to work on a rota in schools – unless they are in one of the government’s vulnerable groups, or caring for someone in one of those groups.
4. WORKING AT HOME
Staff may be asked to work from home. Expectations for those working at home should be reasonable and should be discussed with staff. They should not attempt to replicate the school day and should also take account of individual circumstances.
5. GETTING PAID
All staff should continue to receive full pay, including those who are self-isolating. Supply teachers are in a different position and the NEU is trying to address their situation.
6. EASTER OPENING
The government has said that they want schools to continue with this provision during the Easter holiday. At the moment we have no other information on this but we will address when we know more.
7. KEEPING IN TOUCH
We do recommend that you stay in touch with colleagues and fellow union members. Departments and union groups can set up Zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups. Be a collective and get colleagues to join the NEU.
8. NAHT ADVICE TO HEADTEACHERS
We expect heads to consult with NEU Reps and staff about all matters arising from this crisis – this will only work with the maximum buy-in. This is supported by the NAHT advice to headteachers, “It will be impossible to build the team response you will need if you rely on compulsion. That will lead to resentment and people will simply stay away using “isolation” to legitimise their absence. This effort cannot be about compulsion. Success will be borne out of mutual respect, understanding and support.”
We are getting hundreds of queries and we are answering them as quickly as we can. We will issue further updates but please do check the NEU website www.neu.org.uk/coronavirus and contact us if you have any concerns about any aspect of this situation.
We will be sending regular updates and you may need to find ways of sharing these with colleagues and seeing their views if you are not able to call meetings.
The National Education Union has written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling for the Government to close schools and colleges and protect vulnerable educators or those caring for at risk family members.
We are also calling on the Government to fund and plan limited school opening for the children of key workers, those on free school meals and other children in need.
See below for the text of the letter
Download a PDF of this letter: NEU Boris Johnson letter 17 March 2020
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson
10 Downing Street
17 March 2020
Dear Prime Minister
We write again following your announcements yesterday and our letter of Saturday.
In that letter we pointed to an apparent contradiction between bans on large gatherings and a refusal to close schools.
We also said we thought that it was important to engage with all the science and appealed for more information to be released on the modelling and on the effects on vulnerable school and college teachers, other staff and parents.
We have not yet seen that further information.
You announced yesterday that vulnerable people are to confine themselves for 12 weeks from this weekend.
On our understanding this includes:
and those who are suffering from:
We assume that on this basis teachers and other school and college staff who have these conditions or who are caring for people with those conditions, or who are over 70 should self-isolate.
We intend to advise all our members in these categories or caring for people in them to stop attending schools and colleges from next Monday at the latest. Some will do so earlier.
We also assume that the children of parents with those conditions should also avoid school or college.
This will make the running of schools all the more complicated.
Given your failure to release modelling comparing different scenarios of school closures, we are now forced to call on you to close schools, at least for some time and at least in some areas.
We know that very many of our members who aren’t in the categories of heightened risk would be willing to volunteer to play a role in helping our society get through this crisis.
We suggest during a period of full school closure that teachers and school leaders could work on plans for more limited opening to:
Of course, this could not be a full opening and it would mean substantial changes from the way schools are normally run – but we believe schools could be important community hubs. This in turn requires that SATs are abandoned and that you produce proposals on the inevitable widespread disruption to GCSE and A -level exams.
Supply teachers would also be willing to help in such ways and in any event need your support during school closure or self-isolation.
We look forward to your engagement with these ideas and we remain, as before, ready to meet with you and the Secretary of State for education.
Given the number of staff and pupils that will now be off school, teachers and leaders will simply have to exercise their professional discretion about whether schools and colleges open and what work is undertaken – and they should do so with your approval.
We will support them in so doing.
Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, joint general secretaries, National Education Union
Download a PDF of this letter: NEU Boris Johnson letter 17 March 2020
To answer some of the questions we have been getting, we have produced this briefing on Covid-19 and its potential to impact on schools – please download it and discuss with colleagues in your school.
We will provide updates as the situation changes, and we will discussing this at our planned meeting on Monday 23rd March (see below for information).
Our meeting on 23rd March will also feature a discussion on the NEU’s latest advice and campaign materials on workload, 1265 hours and Directed Time. We want to use these materials to support members in schools in the summer term. We will be joined by Henry Fowler from the campaigns team at NEU HQ. You can download the campaign materials here and we will have copies available at the meeting.
Our planned strike action in LA community schools is going ahead, starting with one day on Tuesday 24th March is going ahead. We will email members in those schools with the arrangements, and you will be updated if the situation changes.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any advice or have any questions about any of the above.
15th March 2020
The situation with Coronavirus is changing rapidly and so is the advice from government, medical experts and other bodies including the NEU and other unions. The NEU has published advice and guidance on the website and this will be updated as when necessary.
At the moment there are no plans for schools to close, but this may change. We understand that schools will be preparing for this. NEU Joint General Secretaries, Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, have written to the Prime Minister to ask why aren’t schools closing if mass gatherings are to be suspended?
The purpose of this briefing is to provide Reps and members with some guidance on some questions we have been asked and matters that should be discussed in school.
Some of these things may be happening in your school already, but we suggest that you call a meeting and seek reassurances from your headteacher.
This situation is changing rapidly and we will attempt to keep you updated with current advice. Please do not hesitate to contact the NEU if you need any advice or guidance.