An update for colleagues on school news and key reminders.
Firstly, we want to acknowledge your and all our school colleagues continued hard work in welcoming all pupils and staff back to schools and continuing to keep our schools open, educating and caring for pupils and staff during these extremely challenging times.
Pupils, parents, staff and unions have welcomed the return to school but the challenges in maintaining a safe and high-quality assured provision for all remain.
We are mindful of the complexity of the on-going situation and of the requests from stakeholders to help clarify the position on some of the trickier issues you are managing.
We are awaiting further DfE / PHE practical guidance on some key workforce issues including employees who are at 28 or more weeks of pregnancy.
However, we are also mindful that national guidance is rarely able to provide definitive answers to specific school and individual circumstances. We hope and expect that local employers and trade union representatives will work together collaboratively in the best interests of pupils, employees and schools.
In the interim and as we approach the October half term and plan for the forthcoming Christmas break, you will find important new DfE guidance and a reminder of current guidance (below) to help you continue to support your schools and councils.
Employees caring for a dependant that needs to self-isolate as a result of current government or local requirements
A reminder that the NJC Covid-19 circular dated 6 March 2020 states:
'If an employee is caring for someone who has or may have coronavirus, this period of absence should also be regarded as self-isolation. Given the employee may then have been in direct contact with the virus we would expect home working arrangements to be then considered for the duration of the incubation period. Employers should keep in touch to support employees.'
‘Following any school closures, employers should be fully supportive of employees with childcare responsibilities and consider flexible working arrangements, including working from home, adapting working patterns to care for children or dependants or taking time off, whether this is special leave, annual leave or flexible working’
Where employees’ have a shared parental caring relationship for a child, we would expect those child caring responsibilities to be shared where-ever practicable possible.
We know there is varying local practice on the question of dependents or emergency carers leave, and whether or not it can be extended for staff with caring needs. We are mindful that the financial challenges facing many schools makes this situation particularly difficult, and it is therefore a matter for local determination.
As you approach the October half term and plan for the Christmas break you may find the ASCL, LGA and NAHT Joint School Workforce Guidance COVID-19: Quarantine on entering or returning to the UK and self-isolation prior to admission to hospital advice issued on the 19 June 2020 useful as although this was written to take account of the summer period the key messages and practical guidance is still valid. We draw your attention to the paragraphs below:
‘Our key recommendation in relation to this issue, is that school leaders and managers have conversations with all their teaching and support staff as early as possible, about the potential impact of this governmental requirement.’
……given that if you arrive in the UK on or after 8 June 2020, you will not be allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days. Therefore, from this point forward school staff travelling abroad will be doing so fully cognisant of the quarantine requirements on re-entering the UK
LGA Pay Reference Circular 2020
Where ever possible we would encourage you to access the LGA Pay Reference Circular 2020 via the LGA website. The final version was issued by PDF to local authorities’ key school contacts on the 2October 2020.
The latest DfE guidance on school visits and webinar on home testing kits
Coronavirus: travel advice for educational settings
The Government updated (6 October) the guidance for educational settings, and their students and staff, who are travelling or planning to travel during the coronavirus outbreak to include the latest advice on travel for children under 18 organised by educational settings.
Coronavirus home test kits webinars for schools and colleges
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is hosting a series of webinars to support schools in understanding how to use coronavirus home test kits in education settings. During these webinars DHSC will provide guidance on who should receive these kits, what they will look like and how parents and carers should use them.
Ofsted published the first report in a new series of briefings on 6 October. The reports include how schools are managing pupils’ return to education under the current COVID-19 restrictions, based on 121 pilot visits to schools across England carried out last month.
Finally with the wellbeing of school leaders, teachers, all staff and pupils still high on the majority of peoples agenda’s you may find the slides from the LGA webinar on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of schools and trust that took place on 2 October useful. This also includes the national employers (NEOST) practical guide.