Clinically vulnerable teachers and school staff should work from home – NEU

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor
·2-min read

Teachers and school staff who are most at risk from coronavirus should not return to the classroom next week when England’s national lockdown ends, a leading union has said.

The National Education Union (NEU) said it is not safe for clinically extremely vulnerable staff (CEV) to go to school and has urged headteachers to allow them to continue working from home.

The Government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan states that as the national restrictions end on December 2, so too will the guidance to the most vulnerable not to go to work or school.

But the NEU said it does not agree it is safe for them to do so and has written to the schools minister Nick Gibb asking for data on how many teachers and support staff have caught coronavirus, been hospitalised or died.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “We know that case counts are rising in schools, especially among secondary-age pupils. We know that schools cannot fully socially distance.

“In such an environment, which is sadly commonplace to the vast majority of schools, clinically extremely vulnerable staff are at risk.

“We have appealed to Government to do the right thing and protect CEV staff who want to do their jobs but cannot safely work on site.

“We believe that most heads agree with us and we have written to them to highlight the risks to their staff and the inadequacy of the new Department of Education (DfE) guidance.

“The NEU cannot in good conscience recommend that our CEV members go into work when asked to do so and we will be advising them not to do so.

“If a school refuses to allow CEV staff to continue to work from home, then that member should get in touch with their NEU rep – and we, together as a union, will support them.”

The NEU has called for a rota system but on Friday the Government issued guidance saying schools will not be able to introduce such a system to limit the number of students on-site during the pandemic.

However the DfE has unveiled a short-term Covid workforce fund to help cover the costs of staff absences.

The fund, which will be backdated to November 1 and cover the current half term, will only be available to schools and colleges facing high levels of staff absences, or significant budget pressures – to ensure they remain open.