19 March, 2020
After much speculation the Government has confirmed that they ordering schools to close from Friday 20th March, until further notice.
This announcement is unlikely to have come as much of a surprise to any school leaders and most schools will have contingency plans in place to ensure effective education during the period of school closure.
As part of the plans assessment and exams will not be going ahead and no performance tables will be published this year.
As expected schools will remain open for the children of key workers and for the most vulnerable children. Whilst schools should be able to identify relatively easier the most vulnerable children, these are likely to be children who have a social worker or Education and Health Care Plans, identifying those parents who are key workers may prove more difficult.
It may be initially difficult to identify what is meant by key workers, whilst it has been indicated this includes NHS staff, police and delivery drivers and it is expected that the government will release guidance on this before schools open up for key workers on 23rd March. However identifying those parents who are key workers is not likely to be possible but in the early stages at least there is likely to be an element of trust involved.
As some staff will be required to continue working to teach the children of key workers and those most vulnerable children then schools may need to make determinations about the staff who will teach these children.
How each school approaches this will probably depend on the make up of the pupils who will continue to receive teaching but we would suggest first identifying those members of staff who are at high risk of Covid-19 and ensuring these staff members are not delivering lessons. It may then be that the remaining teaching population can then deliver lessons on a rota basis to avoid any one teacher having too much exposure.
How these lessons will be delivered is probably going to be something for each school to decide based on the numbers of pupils they have in each year group.
A key point about this closure is that staff will continue to be working and teaching the pupils who are in school so staff should be paid as normal during any closure of school premises.
Whilst the nature of a national school closure will mean the vast majority of parents and employees will be aware of the closure, schools should not take for granted that people will be aware.
In respect of parents clear communication should be given to all parents around the closure but schools should ensure adequate communications are given to all parents and not take for granted knowledge of the situation.
With staff it should be easier to communicate the closure plans with them but you should ensure adequate communications are made with those who may not currently be in school, whether they are absent due to maternity leave or sick leave to keep them updated on the current position.
As things develop further we will provide further guidance however if you have any concerns about any issues regarding school closures please contact our Education Team on 0800 689 0831. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.