The Government recently announced proposals to begin a cautious phased opening of schools from 1st June for those in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in smaller class sizes. They are also planning to get some secondary school and college students back – those in years 10 and 12 – to make sure they have the opportunity to go back on a limited basis and have some face-to-face time with teachers.
The Government have been issuing detailed guidance, on what seems like a daily basis, to assist schools and colleges in developing a plan to be able to carry this out as effectively as possible.
Some education establishments have remained open to the pupils and students of key workers and those classed as vulnerable. Pupils and Students in these groups are now being encouraged to attend if they are not already doing so, therefore, numbers are likely to increase.
Whilst 1st June is the suggested date for education establishments to possibly re-open for more pupils and year groups, this is an aim rather than a definitive date to reopen. Establishments should ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone who attends their education setting and, as such, should only open to more pupils and students when they feel they have done everything they can to limit the risk of infection.
As per the Government guidance, education establishments have a duty of care to welcome back more pupils and students, however difficult this may be. In order to ensure this is carried out correctly, it will be important to consult staff and trade union colleagues on such proposals.
Preparing for the Opening of Schools
The Government’s general advice in preparing for the wider opening of education establishments from the 1st June consists of:
- Children, young people and staff who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions are advised to shield.
- Staff who are clinically vulnerable and at higher risk of contracting the virus, should work from home where possible. If they cannot, they should be offered the safest available on-site space to ensure the required 2 meter distance.
- A child/young person or a member of staff who lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, can attend their education or childcare setting.
- A child/young person or staff member who lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the guidance on shielding, is advised to only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, if they are able to understand and follow those instructions.
- Staff and children or young people should not attend if they have symptoms or are self-isolating due to symptoms in their household.
- Education establishments should be following public health guidance and implementing protective measures in education.
Some education trade unions are actively working with employers to ensure education establishments are as safe as they can be in their attempts to limit the infection rate. However, we are also acutely aware that some trade unions have been actively advising their members not to engage with employers in attempting to prepare for any reopening of education establishments on 1st June.
Education establishments have been advised to consult staff and trade unions, yet this trade union advice is preventing them from even doing this and discussing any concerns/questions that the trade union and staff may have. This could impact on the safety of pupils and staff moving forward and also the future employee relations climate.
If you have faced similar issues in your school or college and would like to discuss this with us in more detail, then do please get in touch with our HR Consultant, Simon Bellard, on 0161 475 7666 or email [email protected].