Coronavirus Update and workplace survey: 22nd March 2020

We would be very grateful if you could spare a few minutes to complete this survey on how your school is responding to closure and what arrangements are being put in place.
We are working with the Local Authority and headteachers to manage the situation and want to have as much information as possible to feed into these discussions.
Here is  our latest briefing: Coronavirus_briefing_No.2
This was emailed to members this morning. We have also posted the text at the end of this blog.
Our briefings are being well received by members and we are answering questions as quickly as we can. The national NEU website is being updated every day.
The situation is clearly now very serious. Sadiq Khan on the Andrew Marr show has said:
“Do not leave your home, do not use public transport UNLESS it is absolutely necessary – this will save lives and protect the NHS. This is not advice, it is an instruction.”
This means schools will need to review their arrangements on a daily basis, but it is clearly now not acceptable for schools to expect all staff to report for work.
Thanks for your time on this – please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any advice.
22nd March 2020

Text of Coronavirus Briefing No. 2

Tower Hamlets NEU Branch

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.


There are three groups of staff, who should definitely be working from home:

  • 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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 and contact us if you have any concerns about any aspect of this situation.

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