NEU, NASUWT, Unison, Unite and GMB have issued joint advice that focuses on minimising the risk of disruption, due to the Omicron variant.
Below are the significant points of advice from the trade unions:
Vaccinations - members are urged to get fully vaccinated, which includes boosters and to encourage colleagues who have not already done so, in order to protect themselves, vulnerable colleagues and students, the community, the provision of face-to-face education and the NHS. Schools should consider allowing employees paid time off for the vaccine.
Risk Assessments - it is a legal requirement for leaders to review and update risk assessments. Revised procedures should be clearly communicated to employees, students, parents/carers, contractors, visitors and the implementation should be monitored
An individual risk assessments should be completed for vulnerable employees and they should be offered option of non-front-facing role with an FFP2/FFP3 mask.
Schools are urged to allow clinically extremely vulnerable and pregnant employees to work from home.
Ventilation - CO2 levels should be monitored and if the levels are above 800ppm and cannot be reduced naturally, or mechanically, then measures should be taken, which include; reducing the number of people and time in the room, or temporarily vacating the room.
Face Coverings and PPE - face coverings are to be worn by students and staff in secondary communal areas and for primary staff in communal areas. The Government is also recommending that they are also worn in secondary classrooms and other teaching areas.
FFP2/FFP3 masks should be provided to staff administering first aid, medical care or personal care where social distancing cannot be maintained. They should also be provided to catering, cleaning and estate staff.
Clinically extremely vulnerable employees or any other employee who is at significantly greater risk, should also be provided with FFP2/FFP3 masks.
Social Distancing - measures should be implemented to minimise mixing, and keeping groups as consistent as possible.
Combining classes due to staff shortages should not be adopted, as this will increase transmission and lead to further disruption.
One way systems, safe arrangements for arriving and departing and staggered breaks and start and finish times should be reintroduced, where no longer in place.
Large gatherings such as whole school, or whole year group/key stage assemblies should be avoided or moved online, as well as staff meetings and parent's evening. Where there is no alternative to them being held in person, then appropriate social distancing should be maintained
Testing and Isolation - siblings and other household contacts should be encouraged, in additional to LFD testing, to stay at home until a negative PCR test result has been received. Where LFDs are unaccessible due to supply issues, they should be supported to work form home for the isolation period.
Staff Shortages - teachers should only be expected to cover absences in circumstances that are not foreseeable and should not be expected to teach pupils who they are not assigned to teach.
Teachers are being advised to raise urgently with the unions, when they are expected to cover routinely, or to combine classes.
Hygiene - renewed focus on enhanced hygiene and cleaning regime is needed, including employing additional cleaning staff and paying additional hours to cleaning and estate staff for extra workload or hours worked.
If you would like to read the safety checklist in its entirety, please find the document attached below.
It is important that you are aware of the trade union stance and the advice that your staff are receiving from their representatives. This is advice and is not necessary an absolute requirement. Managers should consult with staff to achieve an agreeable outcome where there is no legal requirement in place to respond to the challenges presented by the virus.
We have been receiving a number of queries in relation to vaccinations, and we would advise that whilst you cannot enforce an individual to be vaccinated, you can certainly encourage them to do so and support them with time off in order to have the vaccine.
If they choose to remain unvaccinated, then you will need to be mindful that if they have recently been in contact with or live in the same household as someone with Covid-19, then they will need to self-isolate for a period of 10 full days from the day the first person in the household had symptoms, or from the day the test was taken. Staff may work from home where they are self-isolating if they are well enough to do so.