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School plan not to use supply but send children home if staff absent

Discussion in 'Governors' started by IndigoandViolet, Sep 16, 2020.

  1. IndigoandViolet

    IndigoandViolet New commenter

    Hello all,

    I'm a governor at a single-form entry primary school. I am concerned about part of our COVID risk assessment and not sure what to do about it.

    Our covid risk assessment places classes in bubbles, so students should not normally have contact with any staff apart from their main class teacher, except for PPA time which is covered by in-house peripatetics (sports, language and music).

    Our risk assessment includes a clause that if the main class teacher is absent, the whole class will be sent home rather than internal or external cover being provided. The rationale for this is that the teacher is part of the bubble and that having a different member of staff cover breaks the bubble and is not allowed. Before the summer there was an instance where a staff member was absent and their class was covered by a member of SLT. This resulted in some unhappiness amongst the staff that the risk assessment was not being followed. We had a meeting with our head to go through the updated Covid plans last night and they confirmed that this term the clause will be upheld - if a staff member is absent no cover will be provided and students will instead be sent home for remote learning until the staff member returns.

    For clarity, I am not talking about situations where the teacher is symptomatic and so the class would normally be asked to self-isolate: this clause covers any absence including non-covid absence and where the staff member is on precautionary self-isolation (e.g. because their own child has cold symptoms and is waiting for a test) where the class would not normally be asked to self-isolate as well.

    I have two questions.

    1) Can we do this? I've read the DfE guidance and while it states that supply teachers can be used, it doesn't say they must (but other schools might use internal supply...). There seems to be significant delegation to individual schools to do what they think is necessary, but given the push to get schools open are we really allowed to send classes home for this reason?

    2) Who would you normally approach with this sort of question? Our school is not a member of the NGA and I can't currently afford to join as an individual member. We are an LA school but I am quite worried about going straight to the LA. Our chair is currently not very well, and our vice chair is struggling to step-up alongside their other commitments. I really don't want to ruin what is currently a good relationship with our school leaders, but this doesn't sit right and I would like to be able to confirm with someone that it is an allowable use of powers.

    Any help gratefully accepted!

    I&V
     
  2. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Your LA governor services is where I'd go for advice.
     
    IndigoandViolet likes this.
  3. sooooexcited

    sooooexcited Established commenter

    The school can put this in as far as I know. You're right that the DfE doesn't insist on it, so schools are able to find a way that works for them.
     
    IndigoandViolet likes this.
  4. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    The irony is that there are some supply teachers sat at home, with nothing to do and no income. Even if you didn't want anyone who had been in another school in the last week, there are probably people available who would meet that requirement.
     
  5. IndigoandViolet

    IndigoandViolet New commenter

    Thanks all, sorry for the delayed reply!

    One of the other governors queried it with the LA and while they don't love it apparently they can't stop it.

    A couple of us are going to have a think about whether we think this falls under our remit (it's sort of day-to-day operations and therefore not) and see whether it's worth raising it at the next full GB.

    Thanks again.
     
  6. Corvuscorax20

    Corvuscorax20 Lead commenter

    It is a very sensible policy, and quite widespread. Our school is the same (secondary) supply teachers are banned, and in the event of being short staffed, children will be sent home. As it happens, so far, we have had more "bubbles" of children sent home than staff absent, so this has not happened yet
     
  7. Robfreeman

    Robfreeman Occasional commenter

    How to guilt your staff. Hey you go off sick and we send loads of kids home.
     
    pepper5 likes this.
  8. Lattelady

    Lattelady New commenter

    The final decision sits with your HT, I spoke to a friend on Saturday who is a HT, she has 34 staff out and is juggling to keep the school open and knows that she may have to close. She has cases amongst staff and students.
     
    Catgirl1964 likes this.
  9. cornflake

    cornflake Senior commenter

    I just don't understand why you wouldn't book a supply teacher. We are crying out for work, and there is no COVID reason why you can't.... Yes, it will cost money - and likely money the school hadn't budgeted for - but isn't it better that children are in school than not?
     
    olegunner likes this.
  10. Corvuscorax20

    Corvuscorax20 Lead commenter

    yes there are covid related reasons why we can't. No body is allowed on the school site outside of students and regular employees at the moment. Common sense.
     
  11. cornflake

    cornflake Senior commenter

    Sorry to disagree, but actually NAHT advice has been that supply teachers can be asked to work in school - and they have stated that since before the summer holiday. You can also have other people on the site if they follow COVID secure guidelines eg washing hands on arrival, wearing face-mask in areas where SD is more difficult such as corridors... it's about assessing risk and mitigating those. Supply teachers can be employed safely. Sorry.
     
    olegunner likes this.
  12. Corvuscorax20

    Corvuscorax20 Lead commenter

    It doesn't matter how many precautions you take and how careful you are.

    Employing a supply teacher is more dangerous than not employing a supply teacher.

    In a situation like this, we control what we can control. And it doesn't matter who says "supply teachers can be safely employed" - that is total nonsense. It might be safe, it might not, there is absolutely no way of knowing. - the fact is that employing a supply teacher is more dangerous than not employing a supply teacher.

    We have assessed the risk.

    The result of our risk assessment for employing supply teachers is absolutely now way would we consider it.

    It would be better to close the school
     
    border_walker likes this.
  13. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    Such decisions could be considered 'operational' and so up to the headteacher in their designation.

    However, for a governor, the questions to raise challenge with and ask would be whether this gives pupils educational value. Loss of learning days... impact on parental community....

    In practicality, this is unsustainable and seems to go greatly against the grain of most schools coping strategy. 'Bubbles' exist within whole year groups in most larger schools - with multiple staff teaching them daily. Enforcing the 'bubble' by complaining that another teacher from the school took a class in place of the regular one seems extremely obstinate and contentious.
     
  14. IndigoandViolet

    IndigoandViolet New commenter

    So this I find quite interesting. We have had a deficit budget for the past two years and are under serious pressure to at least get to balanced this year. I would normally agree that proper supply would be best, particularly because we want to get our students back into the habit of being back in school. However, given the level of expected absence, it would cost significantly more than in a normal year. So it loops round to the idea that we have to give the best possible education we can, but within the budget that is set for us nationally. So I'm not totally convinced we can agree to a blank cheque for supply cover.

    I appreciate none of this helps supply teachers who have been seriously hit by lack of work and hope that you and yours are managing okay.
     

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