28 February, 2020
There may be concern amongst education providers following the news earlier this week that a number of schools have closed over concerns relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It appears that most of the closures relate to a specified threat, such as students and staff travelling to Northern Italy on skiing trips for example. In some instances, the schools have closed in in order to carry out a 'deep clean' while those who have been potentially exposed self-isolate, whilst in other cases it is to prevent those potentially exposed contaminating other pupils. In most cases, the duty of care to students and staff is identified as the motivation behind closures, alongside the need to contain and prevent the spread of any potential infection.
The best way for educational providers to protect themselves at the current time is to keep up to date with developments and take steps to implement current guidance. In this respect, the government has produced specific guidance for educational settings, 'COVID-19: guidance for educational settings' dated 25 February 2020 which can be accessed here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19
Acas has also produced specific guidance for employers, 'Coronavirus: advice for employers and employees' which can be accessed here - https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
Additionally, the government provides daily updates regarding developments within the UK in relation to the virus at 2pm each day which can be accessed here - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public
Should individual circumstances give rise to a cause for concern, the legal basis of any closure and practical arrangements necessary to minimise risk would differ depending on the individual circumstances motivating such a decision. If you are concerned it is imperative that you take legal advice and seek expert medical opinion.
For more information please contact our Education department on 0800 689 0831. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.