Coronavirus update 6th January 2021

The Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday totally vindicated the NEU. After days of denying it, the government finally admitted that we were right and that schools needed to move to remote learning in order to reduce levels of infection of the new virus.

The current level of infection in Tower Hamlets is 1,188 per 100,000 of the local population, the highest it has ever been.

The situation in schools is rapidly changing. Right now, the focus must be on having a risk assessment in place that minimises the number of staff on the premises, and which keeps us as safe as possible.

It is worth stressing that the new measures have been put in place because infection levels from the virus are too high and need to be brought under control as quickly as possible.

1.  REVIEW YOUR RISK ASSESSMENT

The new strain of the virus means that extra caution will need to be taken to minimise the risk in schools. Risk Assessments should be thoroughly reviewed, in consultation with Reps, with a view to reducing the amount of movement around the building, contact between staff and, where possible, reducing bubble sizes or making them more secure.

2. STAFFING IN SCHOOLS

Under the new restrictions government advice is to avoid travel where possible and that anyone who can work at home should do so.

The NEU thinks that decisions about staffing levels should flow from that and staffing should be kept to a minimum to meet the needs of those children who will be in school.

  • This may mean establishing rotas in agreement with staff;
  • Group sizes for those children in school should be kept to reasonable size;
  • Staff meetings and INSET should be conducted remotely;
  • For each role and activity we should ask the question, “is this something that requires presence on site or can it be done from home?”

3. STAFF IN HIGHER RISK GROUPS
Staff who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) have been advised to work from home, and should have received a government letter to this effect. The NEU believes that the same should apply to Clinically Vulnerable (CV) staff and pregnant women who are in their third trimester.


4. SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Whether working in school or at home, we must be doing the best we can to support children and families in these very challenging circumstances – through online learning, calling home etc – this will be increasingly important to counter the suggestions in some circles that we are abandoning children and families.

Arrangements for remote learning should be discussed with staff, expectations should be reasonable and we will be issuing further advice and guidance. The NEU is also looking at ways in which the Union can support members in sharing ideas and resources.


There will be many questions in the coming weeks and we will be working hard to make sure we are giving the best support we can to members in schools – please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any advice, information or support.