An on-demand event jointly hosted by the NAHT and Discovery Education.
Andrew Hammond, Senior Director of Learning at Discovery Education and Guy Dudley, Lead Author of the Advice Hub within the NAHT Discovery Education Pathway programme, discussed the current COVID-19 impact on schools and how those working in schools or from home, can catch up on those stretching (and sometimes overlooked) tasks whilst COVID-19 restrictions continue to prevail.
In a quiz-style, question and answer format, we covered COVID-19 related issues and the overall impact on schools:
- Vulnerable children and children of key workers
- Remote learning
- Section 44 (Employment Rights Act, 1996) explained
- Safety issues
- Staffing issues
- Ofsted and other performance data
In the same format, we also covered those tasks that can be reviewed as long as COVID-19 restrictions prevail:
- School website
- Asbestos in schools
- Health & Safety
- Review of school policies (e.g. Wellbeing)
- Review of school practices (e.g. Single Central Record)
Vulnerable children and children of critical workers
From 5 January 2021, only children of ‘critical workers’ and vulnerable children and young people should attend school or college. All other pupils and students will receive remote education.
Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response and to the EU transition response include those who work in health, social care and in other key sectors. Children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required, but parents and carers should keep their children at home if they can.
It’s simply a matter of supply and demand – the typical process for which is to do the following:
- Risk assessment to ensure the school can provide a safe environment
- Assess parents’ ‘critical worker’ status and whether their children need to attend
- Prioritise – act as a ‘clearing house’ – a recommended ‘clearing house’ approach:
- vulnerable children
- children where both parents are ‘critical workers’ or children with single parents who are ‘critical workers’
- children where only one of two parents is a ‘critical worker’
Confirm the final list with your governors and with your employing body (local authority or trust) to ensure that everyone is in agreement.
The government has used its temporary continuity direction powers to place an obligation on schools in England to provide immediate access to remote education for (all publicly-funded) pupils if they are absent because of covid-19 with effect from 22 October.
NAHT recommends that schools have a clear, written remote/blended learning plan in place that works in their context and is shared in advance with pupils and their families so that they know what to expect.
There is nothing in the legislation or associated guidance that requires schools to do live lesson streaming. The government’s advice points to materials from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA). We know schools have also used resources from EdTech Impact and subject associations and societies. Materials that are already used in lessons, such as worksheets, can also be used.
Don’t forget to explain the provision you are putting in place to your Governing Body or Trust Board and have them agree that the provision is adequate. This is because we believe it is the employer who is the ‘responsible body’ and not the head teacher.
Section 44 (Employment Rights Act, 1996) explained
Section 44 is a section of the Employment Rights Act 1996, a key piece of legislation covering the rights of every employee. It can offer an employee protection if they refuse to work when they have a reasonable belief there is a ‘serious or imminent danger’ to their health and safety or that of others around them. I stress the ‘can’ here – it depends on the specific situation.
The law judges the appropriateness of any walk-out, or proposed walk-out, based on Section 44, on the ‘knowledge, facilities and advice’ that were available to an employee at the time.
It’s my understanding that unions that recommended that their members invoke Section 44 have now reviewed their advice and they have now advised their members to work with school leaders to help ensure provision for vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers can be made during the national lockdown in line with the school’s risk assessment.
Wash hands between each and every activity
Ensure the school is well ventilated and has an adequate supply of fresh air
Ensure the school temperature is reasonable (min of 16 C is recommended)
Adopt a flexible approach to the school uniform
Maximise social distancing
Regular deep cleaning of the school’s most used areas
Adopt a sensible approach made up of the following:
If social distancing cannot be maintained in communal areas and corridors, it would be prudent for schools to ask staff and visitors to wear face coverings in these areas unless there is a compelling reason not to.
Be clear about the steps that will be taken if pupils don’t bring a face covering to school with them or refuse to wear it.
Consider children who are exempt from wearing face coverings due to their unique needs, for example, a child may have a disability or because it causes them severe distress or because deaf pupils and/or staff may need to lip-read or partially rely upon lip-reading.
If staffing matters can wait, they should – for example, capability.
If matters can’t wait, they can proceed, remotely, subject to the additional checks you would expect a responsible employer to take, in the circumstances of each individual case:
Do all participants have access to reliable facilities to allow them to take part in remote meetings?
Is other support necessary / appropriate / available? For example, support with language, support with a protected characteristic, or another impairment?
Ofsted and other performance data
Ofsted will resume monitoring inspections of schools judged as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’. This is to ensure that leaders of these schools have the support they need and are focusing on what will help improve the school most in the current circumstances.
Ofsted will also to carry out section 8 inspections if they have significant concerns about any school.
On 23 March, the DfE announced that it would not publish any school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.
Government policy is also clear that if data on a school’s educational performance is needed, everyone, including LAs and Ofsted, should use data from previous years.
The DfE has published an accountability update to clarify the way school and college accountability will operate for the 2020 to 2021 academic year.
If you are a NAHT Discovery Education Pathway subscriber, you can find full guidance on each of the COVID-19 opportunities listed below on the Pathway Advice Hub. If you do not subscribe to Pathway, we’ve given you access to the full guidance from the Pathway Advice Hub for two of the COVID-19 opportunities, School website and Health & Safety.
Recent statutory adjustments [effective 20 November 2020] were made to the required sets of information that schools must now set out on their websites.
GDPR has been with us for the best part of 3 years now (since 25 May 2018) – the Data Protection Act 1998 has been abolished.
Our advice on the Advice HUB sets out a GDPR checklist that highlights the changes and subsequent actions all schools and colleges must do or have already done and an ‘information management toolkit’ for schools and colleges that lays the foundations for ongoing GDPR compliance.
If you’re a Pathway subscriber, you can find full guidance on the Pathway Advice Hub under: GDPR – a refresher!
Asbestos in schools
Fresh guidance for schools was published in October 2020
If you’re a Pathway subscriber, you can find full guidance on the Pathway Advice Hub under: Managing asbestos in your school or college
Health & Safety
Vicarious liability imposes strict liability on employers for the wrongdoings of their employees. Generally, an employer will be held liable for any act committed while an employee is conducting their duties. An employer’s defence is that it has provided staff with adequate induction, training and ongoing support in health and safety and other matters.
It’s therefore a good time to review your school’s health and safety policy and practices in light of the pandemic and to working with your employer’s healthy and safety ‘experts’ to ensure that your house is in order and that an action plan is underway to close any identified gaps – this will help to improve the school’s overall environment and deter Section 44 notifications.
Review of school policies
Many of those working in schools may also wish to use time to bring their policies up to date and in step with the latest DfE guidance, so for example, you may wish to review the following:
FGM guidance (effective July 2020)
Keeping children safe in education 2020 (effective September 2020)
Managing asbestos in your school or college (effective October 2020)
School website (effective November 2020)
If you’re a Pathway subscriber, all of the above are supported by specific advice pieces on the Pathway Advice Hub.
Review of school practices
Single Central Record
Social networking and online safety in schools
School uniform guidance
School complaints procedure
If you’re a Pathway subscriber, all of the above are supported by specific advice pieces on the Pathway Advice Hub.
If you would like further information about the Pathway programme please visit: www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/NAHT
Lead Author of the Pathway Advice Hub
Guy Dudley was appointed to head of specialist advice in 2014 having joined NAHT in 2013, cutting his teeth as a specialist adviser. Guy leads a team of highly-qualified specialist advisers and assistants that deliver first-class specialist advice and support services to NAHT members and officials across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and to NAHT’s National Executive. The services provided include legal advice and support, information and guidance on educational management issues, general employment practice and law, salaries, pensions and conditions of service, enabling members to better undertake their professional leadership roles. Before joining NAHT, Guy, an MCIPD-qualified HR practitioner, was employed in the UK and the international charity sectors and also worked for the Learning + Skills Council for 6 years, coaching, developing and helping leaders become better people managers. Guy’s passion is to work with leaders, putting them back in control using bold, pragmatic, fair and empathetic approaches.
Senior Director of Learning at Discovery Education
Andrew served in schools for over 20 years, as class teacher, head of department, deputy head teacher and head teacher in both independent and maintained sector schools. A prolific author, Andrew has written numerous titles for a range of educational publishers. He has a BA QTS from Bath and an MA from King’s College London. He is currently studying for an Ed.D at Buckingham, researching the power of culture to deliver character traits and attitudes in schools. He is interested in how schools turn values-based platitudes into practice and how we best support pupils’ personal and cultural development by supporting the personal development of their teachers. Andrew joined Discovery Education in September 2019 as Senior Director of Learning. He designed the Pathway Programme and is series editor for its content. He is passionate about supporting the whole teacher.