Here at West Midlands Employers we recognise what unprecedented times we are experiencing, and we want to stand with you as your Public Sector Partner, providing trusted advice, guidance and resources to help you through these difficult times.
This website is designed to put all the resources we have in one place specifically to support our schools community, with regular updates and new features as the situation changes and we respond accordingly. We also have a General Resources website which has further support which you can access here
If there are resources or support you need please contact the WME team, our mission statement is “To advocate, build and champion people centred organisations for a resilient and diverse public sector workforce that benefits everyone in the West Midlands” and our mantra is
“Here when you need us most”
Rebecca Davis, Chief Executive of West Midlands Employers
West Midlands Regional Guidance This guidance is issued following the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement on 18 March 2020 regarding school closures and emergency school measures during the Coronavirus outbreak of 2020. This is locally developed guidance for schools and local authorities to review their options in implementing the government plans to keep schools open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. The guidance takes into account statutory rights and terms and conditions of employment and the national guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision (the National Guidance) It is advisory, not mandatory. This emergency guidance has been drawn up to support schools and local authorities in implementing the government’s strategy.
Below is a list of key workers as defined in the National Guidance
Health and social care
This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
Key public service
This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
Local and national government
This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies. (please see local determinations of key local government key workers below)
Food and other necessary goods
This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
Public safety and national security
This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
Utilities, communication and financial services
This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.
Regionally Determined Key Local Government Roles
Following consultation with the Local Authorities in our region the following Local Government roles should be considered as key workers.
- Emergency planning teams
- Communications teams
- HR and Payroll Team
- Occupational Health
- Health & Safety
- Schools admin support
- SEND staff
- Public Health staff
- Refuse collectors
- Waste disposal operatives
- Recycling operatives
- Environmental health officers
- Mortuary, Crematory and Coroner staff
- Housing options staff
- Benefits and Revenues
- Emergency housing repairs
- Those dealing with homelessness
- Corporate Parenting roles re children in care
- Social care roles for the vulnerable
- Those dealing with public queries in contact centres and revenues and benefits etc
Eligibility for consideration as a key worker
Further these key principles should be followed:
- If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
- If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
- Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
- Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
- Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.
If and employee’s work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or they work in one of the critical sectors, and cannot keep their child safe at home then their children will be prioritised for education provision.
This may mean that even if only one parent falls into a key worker category they still may not be able to keep their child cared for at home and should have access to the educational provision.
Parents of vulnerable children will be given the option of the school provision and may choose not to accept, however offer and refusal should be recorded.
Only in extreme circumstances where all other options have been explored to maintain provision should priority be given to children who have both parents working as key workers.
Where a key worker is part-time and is not being asked to work additional hours, they may be able to keep their child/children at home in line with the principles above. Schools should seek to ascertain whether a 5-day provision is required and maintain a register of requirement in order to accurately assess the staffing requirements.
Where additional roles are designated as key workers in coming weeks and there is capacity, schools may need to offer places to these children. The position is not fixed as at Monday 23 March 2020 and regular review of capacity and requirement will be needed.
Continuing to Operate
Although the majority of pupils will not be attending school, the school will remain open and it is recognised that school staff are critical workers who are vital to the battle against the Coronavirus. All staff other than those who are sick or self-isolating for any reason, including falling into a vulnerable category, will be required to be available to attend work. It may not be necessary for all staff to be in school at the same time and rotas may be drawn up to ensure that the provision is staffed sufficiently whilst maintaining social distancing rules where possible. Risk assessments should be up to date. Strict hygiene measures should be implemented and maintained to limit the risk of infection, requiring appropriate support staff to continue working.
Should pupil numbers change you should ensure that any staff not needed on site are asked to work from home to continue to support the learning of pupils not in school. Some roles may be critical for maintenance of the provision and you can expect these staff to attend work. Any members of staff who are well and working from home should be aware that they could be required to attend the workplace in the event that the planned staffing arrangements are impacted by absences.
Pooling provision in a MAT or local school
Where a school is part of a MAT attempts should be made to keep separate provision, however in the event of staff shortages which do not meet relaxed rules on ratios of staff to children the MAT can consider pooling provision to one site.
The Coronavirus Bill contains a paragraph allowing rules on adult to child ratios to be relaxed during this emergency but does not give a new figure for this ratio. If you are in doubt seek advice from your professional advisers.
In the event of one school in an area being unable to stay open to provide provision, consideration should be given as to whether provision can be joined with another school rather than force a closure.
Normal school holidays
There is no contractual provision to allow instruction for term-time only staff to work during a normal school closure period, however schools are being asked to maintain the emergency provision during the Easter break. This should be staffed on a voluntary basis and appropriate financial compensation made. Currently national guidance on payment under Burgundy Book arrangements for these additional hours is still to be released.
Extended school hours
There is no requirement in the guidance to open the provision beyond normal school hours but again some schools are able to offer extended hours for key workers. This option should be considered on a voluntary basis. This could change subject to emergency legislation. Where contractual payments do not cover any additional work, payment for this time will be made.
Teachers with children not attending their school provision
The National Guidance includes teachers and other school staff as key workers so that they are free from childcare commitments to operate the emergency provision. Any circumstances where a teacher or other member of school staff has children that are not able to attend their normal school setting for any reason other than sickness or the need to self-isolate they may be permitted to attend the school provision with their parent.
Free school meals
Where the school has inhouse catering, these staff will be required to attend for work unless they are ill or self-isolating. Where there is a contracted provision the school should seek reassurance of provision and contingency plans of their contractor. Other options including shared provisions with other local schools should be considered to maintain this. Schools should speak to the Local Authority at the earliest opportunity if they are unable to fulfil this requirement.
Provision under an ECHP
Schools will need to ensure they are staffed sufficiently to implement the care and safety aspects of any EHCP. Where this is not possible, and it is not safe for the child to be in school they will need to be sent home. Educational provision which cannot be met will not be a trigger for the child not to attend provision.
Contractual Issues in the Event of a Whole School Closure
Pay when schools are forced to shut
Both teachers and non-teachers will be paid on full pay, not counted as sick pay, during periods of school closure unless the employee is considered unfit and would not be able to attend work if the school was open. However, there are some differences between Green Book and Burgundy Book Terms and conditions (please see below.
The circumstances under which sick pay will commence
Should the employee contract Coronavirus the period that they unwell would be counted as sick pay and appropriate reporting procedures should be established immediately in order that this can be recorded. The NJC Circular of 6 March confirms this (extract below).
“With regard to our previous circular that cited Part 2 Para 10.9 of the ‘Green Book’, if an employee is fit for work but decides, or is instructed, to self-isolate, their absence should not be recorded as sickness absence. We would expect all options for home or remote working to be explored with the employee. As they are ‘well’ at this stage they should stay on normal full pay for the duration of the self-isolation period until such time as they are confirmed to have contracted the virus, at which point they transfer to sickness absence leave and the usual provisions of the sickness scheme will apply.”
Under the Burgundy Book diagnosis with an infectious disease at work, or where they are required to stay away from work because of an infectious disease in the workplace this does not count against sick pay entitlement. Neither of these provisions cover the situation we now find ourselves in when schools are closed however section 7 does talk about sick pay during school closure periods. This is an unprecedented situation, so the advice currently is to advise in line with this specific illness. According to medical guidance the incubation period for contracting Covid-19 is 14 days. Therefore, a teacher falling ill in 14 days or less following the school closure period, could have contracted the illness in the workplace and therefore the pay should not be counted as sick pay. A teacher contracting the illness 15 days or more following a school closure period should be treated as not contracting the illness in the workplace and therefore the absence will be counted towards their sick pay entitlement. Should any national guidance on this provide for different provisions we will update you. If you have any special arrangements where a teacher is still having contact through work for any reason and contracts Covid-19 please contact us for advice.
Recording requirements for absent employees
The question above confirms when sick pay should apply. In order to be able to administrate this is it is imperative that schools maintain a reporting procedure and can still record employees who are self-isolating because someone in the household where they reside has symptoms, and those who are sick. Prior to or as soon as possible after closure reporting procedures should be communicated to all staff.
Employees working from home
Wherever possible employees who are unable to attend work should be asked to undertake duties at home. Schools will have some provision for supporting learning during this closure period and teachers and support staff can and should be asked to contribute to this in accordance with their contracted hours as far as possible. It should be possible for most teachers to carry out at least part of their duties under directed time, albeit done in a different way, at home.
Contact with employees who are at home during school closure periods
Employees are still being paid and where possible should be working from home, undertaking duties commensurate with their roles. Regular communication should be maintained through normal line management arrangements and this may well involve new methods not needed before, for example individual or group video calls as well as phone calls. Employees should be regularly reminded of the reporting procedures for sickness absence and regular contact will help reinforce this and identify periods of sickness.
Site staff during a closure
If a member of the site team is well normal duties undertaken during school closure periods can continue. Sickness absence reporting procedures must be communicated so that you can identify when a member of the site team is unable to work. Anyone showing symptoms should not enter the premises.
It is likely that lettings arrangements will discontinue during school closures attributed to the Coronavirus outbreak however you should ensure that your lone working policies and risk assessments are fully up to date.
Roles which cannot be undertaken at home e.g. lunchtime supervision
NJC guidance sets out considerations for employees who are otherwise well but cannot attend their normal place of work due to the Government’s instruction for people to work at home and avoid all non-essential travel.
As previously advised, all options for using annual leave, special leave etc should be explored but given the length of time that this national emergency is set to last it is not reasonable, for example, to expect employees to use their entire annual leave entitlement to cover all or part of the lockdown period as consideration should be given to planned booked holidays later in the year, along with employees who may require leave throughout the year to support dependents.
The position relating to all support staff in schools presents particular challenges.
Ultimately, in many cases employers will have no option other than to accept that some employees can neither work at home nor be redeployed / seconded etc and will therefore be staying at home on full pay for the duration of this emergency.
Headteachers will need to exercise discretion in terms of operating a safe provision. If for any reason you need to consider a full closure you should get in touch with your Local Authority and options for maintaining provision as above can be explored.
Where full closure is required the situation should be closely monitored and the provision re-opened as soon as possible.
In the event of a confirmed case of Covid-19 in your setting you should get in touch with your local Public Health team who will advise you on the course of action. Should a full closure for a short time be required for a deep clean this will be advised by them.
Burgundy Book - New Guidance released in response to the Covid-19 Crisis
On 30.03.20 The ASCL, LGA, NAHT, NASUWT NEU and NGA released a joint statement covering issues around normal Burgundy Book notice period provisions.
The Burgundy Book notice provision includes the requirement for teachers to provide written notice by 31 May of their intention to leave a school’s employment by 31 August of any year. (For head teachers the deadline to provide written notice is by 30 April of their intention to leave a school’s employment by 31 August of any year). It is acknowledged that the current situation is likely to cause significant disruption to recruitment and resignation processes.
As the impact will vary from school to school there has been no amendment to the Burgundy Book provisions however it is recommended that schools adopt a flexible response to accepting resignations outside of the normal timeframe.
Teachers and Headteachers are encouraged to give as much notice as possible if they wish to resign from post.
In terms of recruitment, schools may wish to consider managing applications and interviews virtually while the advice from the government is to remain at home or choose to delay advertising vacancies until later in the year. Schools should not be conducting face to face interviews or encouraging applicants to visit schools during this period. WME are able to offer schools support in managing a virtual recruitment process please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for further information.
Further guidance on support for schools to ensure there is not a deficit of teachers/leaders is expected and updates will be provided when available.
Guidance and resources to support schools and local authorities in implementing the government’s strategy.
The NJC issued circulars with updated guidance on Coronavirus COVID-19.