Coronavirus Crisis Primary Workplace Checklist

Coronavrius Workplace Checklist

The NEU has worked together with other education unions (Unite, GMB and Unison) to produce this Joint Union checklist for use in discussions with your head about what schools need to do in order to begin reopening safely for wider groups of children:

Coronavirus Workplace checklist

We will be sending this to the Local Authority and headteachers.

Reopening of schools

June 1st is an arbitrary date set by the government and the NEU believes that schools should not rushing to meet this deadline. LBTH have written to heads to say:

“we are not expecting schools to be open for all children in years 6, 1 and Reception from the 1st of June. We are committed to working with you and the school workforce unions to find a realistic and safe phased approach to reopening over a period of time. The position is very fast moving and there are likely to be further development by the time we meet next week.”

We are meeting with the Local Authority and other unions tomorrow morning to discuss the checklist and plans for local schools, and will hold a meeting for NEU Reps in primary schools at 4pm to report back and continue our discussions with you.

Details of the meeting are here. Please click on the link to register.

PRIMARY REPS ZOOM MEETING

4pm TUESDAY 19th MAY

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6141157814
Meeting ID: 614 115 7814

We will hold a separate meeting for secondary Reps later in the week.

Kevin Courtney on Good Morning Britain

Here is a link to a video from our joint General Secretary, Kevin Courtney, following his appearance on Good Morning Britain this morning.

18th May 2020

Coronavirus update & members zoom meeting

First of all I would like to encourage you to register for our online members meeting on Friday at 4pm – with over 300 registrations already it is going to be our biggest meeting ever.

 REGISTER HERE 

The government plans to begin reopening primary schools on June 1st have been sharply criticised by all education unions, including the NAHT who represent the majority of primary headteachers.

A joint union statement was issued yesterday which called on the government to, “step back from the 1st June and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out” – read the statement here.

NEU negotiations with Tower Hamlets Head Teachers
Yesterday we wrote to Tower Hamlets headteachers outlining the NEU position that no detailed planning should take place on the basis of reopening on June 1st and this has been well received – read the letter here.

We think it is best to refrain from detailed discussions at this stage.

However, where discussions are taking place, our advice is that it should be on the understanding that schools are not committed to reopening on June 1st as it is not safe and that we will issue further advice nearer the time.

A lot will happen over the next few days and the NEU will be updating our advice and guidance in response to the changing situation.

At all times we will have the safety and well being of staff, children, and their families, at the centre of our thinking.

Over 5,000 teachers and support staff have joined the NEU since Sunday, which is a clear sign that school staff support the approach we are taking.

Please do discuss the situation with colleagues in your school and look out for further updates – and do join our mass meeting on Friday at 4pm.

IN THE NEWS
‘Not safe to reopen schools,’ warn teacher unions

heads say June 1st reopening unfeasible

DfE scientific adviser says he has not assessed the guidance on reopening schools

Guide to running a zoom meeting

We are asking workplace reps to organise zoom meetings with members to discuss the likely decision to try and open schools and colleges.

Here is a guide to how zoom works and how you can use it to effectively run a meeting for your members.

User Guide for Zoom

5th April 2020

Health and safety reps – a brief guide

In every workplace union members can agree to appoint a SAFETY REPRESENTATIVE, this is a legal right and only union members decide if they want a safety rep and who it is.

Safety reps have legal rights. These are enshrined in the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations and accompanying notes which all have the force of law. These regulations are often referred to as the “Brown Book”.

Once a safety rep is chosen by union members the headteacher, chair of governors and employer must be informed of the name of the safety rep in writing.

So too should the

  • NEU district secretary Alex Kenny – alex.kenny@neu.org.uk
  • NEU District health and safety advisor – Paul McGarr – prmcgarr@yahoo.co.uk

NEU guidance is that these can then inform the school and employer of who the safety rep is.

Safety reps have basic legal rights. The key ones include:

  • to carry out regular safety inspections of the workplaces. The NEU advises that in schools termly is good practice
  • time off to carry out such inspections (NEU guidance is half a day in small schools and full day in larger schools)
  • to be provided with all written documents and policies relating to health and safety
  • to be provided with copies for review of all risk assessments relating to workplaces related activities of all kinds (Risk assessments are management’s responsibility not the safety reps’)
  • the employer/school has a legal obligation to inform and consult safety reps “in good time” on changes and matters in the workplace which may affect the health and safety of members who the safety rep represents
  • each union can choose its own safety rep, but a safety rep for one union can represent staff in other unions by agreement as long as they have the same employer.
  • safety reps are entitled by law to paid time off for training – and the NEU provides excellent training course. Please discuss with the district secretary and/or the district health and safety advisor (see above) if you wish to undertake such training.

Safety inspections place no legal liability or obligation on safety reps. The role of the safety rep is to highlight and report possible issues. The responsibility for dealing with any issues raised rests with the employer not the safety rep.

The NEU produces a wealth of excellent material for safety reps, with detailed guidance on everything from carrying out safety inspections, legal rights and advice on a whole host of issues.

All of this is available on:

https://neu.org.uk/health-and-safety-advice

It includes detailed guidance on the role of a safety rep:

https://neu.org.uk/advice/role-safety-rep

And lots of helpful videos and pro-formas at:

https://neu.org.uk/health-and-safety-reps

There is also an NEU health and safety reps email group and mailing list, which safety reps can join if they wish to.

COVID 19

The situation around Covid 19 is clearly a health and safety issue.

Safety reps should be provided with the risk assessment covering existing arrangements in schools during the lockdown where schools are operating childcare for essential worker or vulnerable children- which should include protocols on ensuring safety.

This is a legal obligation on the school and employer.

Issues concerning these risk assessments, or difficulties obtaining them, should be raised with and reported to the district NEU secretary and the district NEU health and safety advisor (see above).

If there is any proposed wider opening of schools this is a significant change which means there is a legal requirement on schools to consult safety Reps “in good time” and ensure a risk assessment has been carried out and shared with safety reps who can then raise concerns.

Under Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act all employees have a legal right to refuse to be in a workplace if they believe it to be unsafe and to pose a threat to the health and safety of themselves or others.

Please contact the district secretary or district health and safety advisor if you wish to discuss any of this further or need assistance or advice.

Download a PDF version of this blog here: H&S Reps guide

5th April 2020

Coronavirus Update: 27th April 2020

The purpose of this briefing is to remind members of key points of NEU advice, following the government’s decision to ask schools to remain closed until further notice.

Government advice continues to be 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. Members should avoid using public transport if at all possible.

  1. WHO SHOULD BE WORKING FROM HOME?

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
  1. WHICH CHILDREN SHOULD BE IN SCHOOL?

The only children in school should be children of key workers, or other vulnerable children, who really can’t find an alternative. Government advice is that occupancy should be no more than 10%. Schools should do everything they can to adhere to government guidelines on social distancing.

  1. HOW MANY STAFF SHOULD BE IN SCHOOL?

Staffing should be kept at the minimum required to provide childcare for the number of children in school. This means asking staff to volunteer to 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.

  1. HOME WORKING AND DISTANCE LEARING

A summary of some key points from the NEU advice:

  • Workload for home working should be reasonable and allow for individual circumstances of staff
  • Schools should acknowledge that not all children will have the same access to computers and the internet
  • Schools should not attempt to recreate the school timetable or curriculum
  • The focus should be on flexible activities and stimulus that are fun, exciting and do not necessarily need access to the internet
  • Schools should try to avoid covering new content for GCSE and A Level courses
  • The NEU advises against live-streaming lessons for safety reasons – pre-recorded videos are a preferred option but this should be a voluntary activity with no compulsion on teachers to do this.
  • Teachers should not be expected to routinely grade or mark students’ work
  • Staff should not be expected to produce a daily log of work done
  1. CALLING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES AT HOME

With schools remaining closed to the vast majority of children, many will be feeling a sense of dislocation and may be missing seeing familiar friends and faces. The NEU believes that there is real value in teachers making “welfare’” calls to speak to children and check how they are getting on. Where schools are considering making calls to families, it should be discussed with staff and their union Reps and a protocol agreed.

See our separate briefing on making home calls:

  1. NAHT ADVICE TO HEADTEACHERS
    We expect heads to continue to consult with NEU Reps and staff about all matters arising from this crisis. 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 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.

Download a copy of this: Coronavirus_briefing_No.5

27th April 2020

Making calls home: NEU advice

With schools remaining closed to the vast majority of children, many will be feeling a sense of dislocation and may be missing seeing familiar friends and faces.

NEU members are contacting us for advice on whether they should be calling families at home, and speaking to individual children in their class.

The NEU believes that there is real value in staff making “welfare” calls to speak to children and check how they are getting on.

Many members are already making these calls and there is evidence that they are welcome by parents, and that children are quite excited to speak to their teacher for a few minutes.

However, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed if schools are considering this. This briefing addresses some of those.

Where schools are considering making calls to families, it should be discussed with staff and their union Reps and a protocol agreed.

  • Calling a class of children is likely to take a long time so the impact on other work must be considered.
  • The NEU believes that for any call home the emphasis must be on welfare not checking on work.
  • Calls by teachers or support staff, should be separate to calls to vulnerable children, which will be carried out by the designated safeguarding leads.
  • Clear safeguarding advice should be issued by SLT before calling home takes place.
  • No member of staff should be forced to do this if they do not want – it should be a voluntary exercise.
  • Where possible, the school should invest in software that enables calls to come from a central hub – Call Hub and C3X and two examples – another option is for schools to purchase dedicated phones for staff.
  • Staff should not be expected to make video calls to families and children.
  • If schools are sharing data with staff, all efforts must be made to keep this secure – we recommend staff logging on to the school server as the best option.
  • Where a member of staff is willing to use their own phone, the school should state explicitly that they have permission to do this – clearly any expenses incurred should be reimbursed.
  • Where a member of staff is using their own phone, they should take all necessary precautions to withhold their number and to delete family numbers after use.
  • We recommend that the frequency of calls should be no more than fortnightly.

When staff are calling home, we recommend the following outline:

  • Ask to speak to parent first and give them your name and explain why you are calling.
  • Ask to speak to the child – this could involve the parent and child being on speaker phone together.
  • Keep conversations short, supportive and professional – focus on what the child wants to talk about.
  • Not all children will want to talk to a staff member and there should be no attempt to force this.
  • Do not share personal information on the call.
  • Ask to speak to adult at end of conversation.
  • If there are any concerns following the call, normal reporting procedures should be followed.
  • Please remember that some families will be observing Ramadan so calls should be made later in the day.

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.

Coronavirus Update: 3rd April 2020

Today would have been the last day of term in Tower Hamlets schools and we hope that you and other colleagues will be able to get some well earned rest.
The last two weeks have been incredibly challenging for school staff and we know that there has been some fantastic efforts made across Tower Hamlets to meet the needs of the children and families in our schools.
 
The NEU has been working hard to provide updated advice and guidance for members and as a result of our work the Union has gained over 5,000 new members and over 250 new school Reps since March 21st.
 
EASTER OPENING
Most schools are closing over Easter, although some  schools are remaining open to provide childcare for vulnerable children or children of key workers. Where schools are open over Easter, staffing should be on a voluntary basis and every effort should be made to ensure that all staff have a designated two week holiday.
AFTER EASTER
It now looks like schools will not go back for most, if not all,of next term so we will be working with the LA and heads to make sure workable plans are in place for the next period. It’s possible that the number of children in schools will increase nest term. It will continue to be important that NEU Reps are involved in any decision making.
HUBS
Some consideration is being given to setting up hubs, grouping small numbers of children together from neighbouring schools. See this link for some NEU guidance for some NEU guidance on hubs – please have a look at this, discuss it with your headteacher, and get in touch if this is being discussed in your school.
WORKING AT HOME
We have had some queries about working from home and what are reasonable expectations. Here is the NEU guidance but do get in touch if there are concerns about this at your school.
 
VULNERABLE CHILDREN
Many of us will be anxious about how our most vulnerable children are getting on and it is important that measures are in place to support them. In doing this it is also important that school staff are not expected to substitute for social workers or welfare officers. The NEU has issued some guidance on this.
 
NEU REPS MEETING NEXT TERM
We would like Reps to join us for a Zoom meeting after the Easter break and will send you details of this on Monday 20th April.
 
Please stay safe and look after your loved ones – and have as good a break as you possibly can.
USEFUL LINKS

Coronavirus update: Joint NEU, ASCL, NAHT advice

Joint Union Advice

The NEU has now published joint guidance with NAHT and ASCL, which will be useful in our ongoing discussions – the guidance is here:
We will be holding another Zoom meeting at 4pm on Friday to hear what is happening in schools and answer any questions you may have.
To join the meeting follow this link https://us04web.zoom.us/j/6141157814
Meeting ID Number: 614 115 7814

Coronavirus Update: 25th March 2020

Reps Video Drop in

You are invited to take part in a Reps Video Drop-In on Friday 27th March @ 4pm-5pm.
REPS VIDEO DROP-IN • FRIDAY 27th MARCH @ 4pm – 5pm
MEETING ID: 614-115-7814

General Guidance and Advice

A reminder that NEU advice is that the following people should be staying at 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

We are also advising against using public transport in order to decrease the risk of spreading the virus.

Children in schools

The information we have is that there are small numbers of children attending schools this week and that most schools are keeping staffing to a minimum. The Local Authority plans to keep the current arrangements in place until Easter and then, if the numbers seem constant, to consider moving to a “hub system” based in neighbourhoods.
Our view is that a hub system would need to establish a maximum number of children and minimum staffing levels. We will keep you posted about discussions on this.
Please do keep us updated about your school, especially if you have any concerns you would like us to raise.

Easter Opening

The situation with Easter opening is still not clear. Tower Hamlets will be running their normal holiday provision but it may be that some schools are asked to remain open. The NEU position is that working at Easter must be voluntary and staff should either be paid for this or have the equivalent time designated as the holiday either before or after the break. More news on this as we get it.

Home Working

Where people are working at home we believe that they should be trusted to do this. It is reasonable to ask staff to check in by email or to take part in conference calls.
We do not think staff should be expected to be online all day or to provide a daily log of their work. If you have any concerns about this please contact us.

Keep in touch with NEU members

As this situation develops NEU members will have many questions, so please do make sure you find ways of keeping in touch and letting us know if there anything we can do.
Don’t forget you can find updated advice on the NEU website
Thanks for all you are doing to support NEU members in your school.

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.

1. WHO SHOULD BE WORKING FROM HOME?

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

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.