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Supply Teachers: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 71868, tabled on 9 July 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect on the health of cover teaching staff working at schools outside of their pupil pods of face-to-face contact with pupils at other schools.

Answered on

14 July 2020

The Government's plan is for all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term, and on 2 July we published guidance to help schools prepare for this. The guidance can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

As part of this guidance, we are asking all school leaders to put measures in place to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their school. This includes implementing a Public Health England (PHE) endorsed ‘system of controls’ that includes: ensuring that people who have symptoms do not attend school, robust hand and respiratory hygiene, enhanced cleaning arrangements, active engagement with NHS Test and Trace, and minimising contact and maintaining distance between individuals wherever possible.

Alongside this, schools have a legal obligation to protect their employees, and others, from harm and should continue to assess health and safety risks. We are asking schools to thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessments and draw up plans for the autumn term that address the risks identified using the system of controls described above.

If schools follow the guidance we have set out they will effectively reduce risks and create an inherently safer environment for pupils and staff. On that basis, schools are advised that all teachers and other staff can operate across different classes and year groups in order to facilitate the delivery of the school timetable. Our guidance makes clear that where staff need to move between classes and year groups, they should try to keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can, ideally 2 metres from other adults. Schools should ensure they have explained to all staff the measures they are proposing to put in place and involve all staff in that process.

The guidance also sets out that supply staff and other temporary workers can move between schools. Where it is necessary to use supply staff or other temporary teachers, those individuals will be expected to comply with the school’s arrangements for managing and minimising risk, including taking particular care to maintain distance from other staff and pupils. To minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering the school premises, and secure best value, we have suggested that schools may wish to use longer assignments with supply teachers and agree a minimum number of hours across the academic year.

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