ASCL guidance on staffing through the period of partial school closures and remote learning

6 January 2020

The Prime Minister announced on 4 January that schools and colleges will remain open to vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers only.  All other pupils and students are to learn remotely. The aim of this action is to reduce contacts in order to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. 

The government guidance during this period is for people to work from home unless it is not possible to do so.  This is also now reflected in the sector-specific guidance Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: schools.

The government guidance which previously stated that "public sector employees working in essential services, including childcare or education, should continue to go into work" has now been updated. This reflects our interpretation which was that schools and colleges will need to eensure they have sufficient staff onsite to operate safely, and support the onsite provision for the children of criticial workers and vulnerable pupils and students, but that all other staff should work from home wherever possible.  

ASCL’s view it that the safest and fairest way to arrange on-site staffing for provision for vulnerable children and children of critical workers would be for employers to implement rota systems.  These could operate across the various teams or groups of staff within schools, eg, leadership team, teachers, classroom-based support staff, office-based support staff, site staff etc, also ensuring that there is sufficient safeguarding, first aid and cleaning provision.  It would be good practice to have a ‘back-up/contingency’ group, in case of any member of staff that may not be able to attend through illness or the need to self-isolate. 

Employers could initially ask for staff who would prefer to work on-site.  This would also help to facilitate working from home for those staff who are vulnerable, or may have problems arranging childcare, such as using grandparents who are now shielding again. NB it is important to note that Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff who are on the shielding list have been advised not to attend the workplace.  Please see our FAQs for more information on this.

If any member of staff raises concerns about attending on-site, employers should discuss these with them on an individual basis and, if necessary and appropriate, put additional measures in place.  These should be reflected in the operational risk assessment and communicated to the member of staff.

As the aim of national lockdown and the move to remote learning is to prevent the spread of the virus, it would not be sensible to expect all staff to attend on-site, even if this is to deliver remote learning from a classroom.  Staff would still need to use shared facilities such as toilets and their attendance on-site would result in more cleaning requirements, meaning even more staff would be required to attend.  This would defeat the aim of the government action.  By implementing a rota system, employers will ensure that all roles required on-site are covered and they would keep the number of on-site staff to a safe minimum.
One final point to note is that the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (SPTCD) has not been disapplied, and as such, all teachers employed under the STPCD, including leadership teachers, will still be entitled to Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time, leadership and management time and breaks as normal.

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