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Coronavirus update #1

Jessica Edmonds, Assistant Secretary, City of Leicester NEU
23rd March 2020

Further to the announcement by the Education Secretary last week, here is as much of an update from the NEU as possible at this time.

Firstly, the government expressed gratitude to education workers for all that they do. We don't often get thanked, so let's hang on to that!

To recap, schools will close from the end of Friday until further notice except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Vulnerable children are classed as those with an EHCP and those under the care of social workers. Schools will stay open through Easter to support key workers. There will be no SATs, GCSEs, A and/or AS levels. A combination of teacher assessment and previous data are to be used instead.

This announcement raises many questions. What are educators' obligations to children not at school? What are educators' obligations to children in school? What will happen to educators' pay? How will a reopening of schools work?

Here are some Q&As:

Q: SN school, all children have EHCP. How does that work with new guidance?

A: NEU will raise this with government immediately as the government haven't clarified how this affects SEND schools. The thinking only seems to have been around mainstream schools with a certain number of children with EHCPs.

Q: Can we have all consultation processes suspended e.g. redundancies and academy conversions?

A: NEU stance is they should be suspended because meaningful consultation can't be achieved during this period.

Q: Pregnant staff member told she won't be paid for coming week as she is off and self-isolating.

A: You must be paid if you are on a permanent contract in a school if you're in one of the groups identified as being more vulnerable. I would add: your absence should also not count towards absence management triggers, or the number of days of sick leave.

Q: What will happen about reopening schools?

A: Advice will be issued about that soon in consultation with DfE e.g. what is the criteria to reopen a school, when with NQTs get qualified teacher status, what happens in terms of pay progression?

Q: What provision is there for supply teachers?

A: NEU is writing to the government to insist that supply teachers are still paid during this period. In the meantime, there is a hardship fund which members can access if in need. Details are on the website. The government is also talking about mortgage holidays, but we also need to consider rent relief. This is a bigger issue for the whole of society.

Q: Teacher with children, one has an EHCP, one doesn't. Wife is a nurse. Do his children have to go to school if he is not required to be in school?

A: Depends on if his school is requiring him to be in school to provide for the children still being cared for in school. This will largely depend of arrangements each school makes, and will vary locally.

Q: Will EYFS assessments still go ahead, and also moderation?

A: Mary can't see how assessment will go ahead. As children are not in school it's unlikely there'll be enough evidence, and there would possibly not be enough staff to administer it anyway.

Q: Can staff still be forced to come into schools to look after children if they have childcare responsibilities and childcare can't be provided by relatives as they are vulnerable?

A: Teachers with children will need to discuss obligations with SLT in terms of how their childcare will work.

Q: Will there be guidance for head teachers on how to management the scenario?

A: Some guidance is on the website, and further will be written in conjunction with the government.

Q: Coursework: GCSE coursework - nothing said about vocational subjects and coursework that can't be completed at home. What will happen there?

A: more guidance is needed for this - government will have to advise further. Assessment should be based on work already completed. This needs to be worked out with Ofqual.

Q: What obligation do we have to work over the Easter holidays?

A: Not got clarification on that yet, but it will probably be a matter of local negotiation. You might be asked to volunteer, but there might also be a pay implication there. There is still a limit of 195 days UNLESS the government changes the law. Legislation is coming out today so watch this space!

Q: What are the practicalities regarding year 11 and year 13 leavers with regards to the end of their formal education?

A: We don't know how long schools will be closed. We have asked for more answers and clarity about this. There is understandably a lot of anxiety about this, and Ofqual are expected to release further information within the next few days.

Q: To what extent will children still attending school be expected to be taught?

A: Things will be different to usual, but it will also be different in different schools. It's definitely not business as usual and no one should expect that it is. Children may do activity based learning, projects etc.

Q: Wife is 39 weeks pregnant. Should I still attend school and will my paternity leave be affected?

A: No should not attend school as wife is vulnerable, and paternity leave should not be affected. I would add that all absences/returns to work that have already been agreed should go ahead. Please ensure that your agreement is in writing.

Q: Will we be expected to run an extended day for children of key workers based on differing shift patterns? Also what will happen if there are more teachers than students?

A: No clear answer yet but there may be more flexibility in schools, and as this is something we need anyway it's perhaps a good time to try it out. Mary was also very clear that the government are relying on the good will of teachers during this time.

Q: Suggestion of a central hub rather than individual schools. That's raising safeguarding concerns for the children.

A: DfE will be contacted about this tomorrow as it is a key issue for protection of children.

Q: Are pupil premium children classed as vulnerable?

A: No. But this is an issue already raised with Nick Gibb that needs further clarification.

Any further questions?

Check on www.neu.org.uk to see if information is already there.

Collate via your school rep and reply to this email.

Use NEU Twitter or Facebook to send private messages to Kevin or Mary.

Kevin and Mary will be doing more conference calls in future to keep members updated.

I appreciate that these are uncertain times, and there are many questions we don't have answers to yet. We will try to send out information as and when we have it. This is a fast-changing situation, and by the time you read this email, the information in it may well be out of date.

Please ensure that your membership information is up to date via my.neu.org.uk and check that colleagues in the NEU are receiving emails (they might be in spam!).


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DON'T PANIC (5th September 2020)
Coronavirus Update #2 (17th May 2020)
Leicester NEU office closed (23rd March 2020)
Coronavirus advice (20th March 2020)