• Schools have coped admirably, firstly by staying open and providing a serene environment for all pupils as the uncertainty grew. This was closely followed by them having to adapt their environments and work practices in a matter of hours to ensure that children of key workers and those in need could still be taken care of in familiar and safe surroundings.

    The role that schools, teachers and support staff continue to play in these uncertain times is invaluable. Many have had to adapt to a different way of working, such as  keeping in touch with those now at home and marking their work or preparing for the future with policy and practice reviews and lesson planning, but in essence all are still providing direct care and education to children.

    This has meant that many staff in schools are now operating on the front line, and schools and academies must ensure that they are fulfilling their duty to provide a safe working environment for employees whether this is at home or at school. This includes putting in place measures to help protect their mental health, which can be done through employee assistance programmes and other supportive steps.

    It’s also important to re-circulate your data protection policy and remind those working from home about their obligations to protect the personal data of pupils and other individuals. Before you do this, you may also want to consider if the document is still fit for purpose and amend it if not.

    We are increasingly being asked if schools are able to furlough staff as is common practice in other sectors. While there is no direct prohibition, Government guidance suggests that schools will generally not be able to take advantage of this for several reasons. Firstly, schools are required to stay open to look after some children. Secondly, many members of staff are still working, for example by providing remote teaching support or co-ordinating matters behind the scenes. Finally, staff continue to receive the usual Government funding which includes covering staffing costs and therefore such funding is already being received from public funds.

    In the current climate it’s also advisable for schools to take a pragmatic view when it comes to pay during periods of self-isolation in order to maintain good relations with staff, which will hopefully be reciprocated by staff volunteering to come in during what would normally be holiday periods as schools continue to stay open. Taking such an attitude to pay also provides consistency with general Government guidelines.

    There is certainly a lot for school leaders and the education sector generally to be thinking about during these unprecedented times. For any assistance, please contact Brachers’ Education team.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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