Important: The DfE’s current position (at the time of writing) is that schools should remain open until advised otherwise by Public Health England (PHE).
It is reasonable for schools to set work for pupils if the government advises on schools closing due to coronavirus. Preparations for school closure may include schools planning work for pupils to take home with them. There are different ways schools can provide pupils with work, including, using a shared forum online, emailing work to parents for them to distribute to their children and sending pupils home with workbooks to complete.
It is important, however, that schools consider staff wellbeing when contingency planning, as preparing for school closure will likely impact staff workload. To find the most effective way to distribute work to pupils without staff workload increasing significantly, schools need to consider the following:
- How will work be sent home?
- How will the work be monitored and reviewed?
- Do all pupils have uninterrupted access to a computer or device (e.g. tablet) at home, e.g. are there enough devices at home?
- Do all pupils have access to the internet?
- Do pupils have access to appropriate reading materials?
Schools need to assess which method works best for their own circumstances and apply it consistently. If a school decides to use email, they need to be aware of the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, and ensure they justify the data collection with a lawful basis for processing data and inform the relevant individuals of this. All data should be managed in line with the school’s Records Management Policy. Emails need to be sent from staff members’ school email address and staff should act in accordance with the school’s policies relating to the appropriate use of technology and communication with pupils at all times.
The priority is to ensure that disruptions to pupils’ education is kept to a minimum. To help with this, schools should implement a Business Continuity Plan which outlines the preventative measures they have in place, as well as control measures to ensure pupils can still have access to education in the event of an incident.
Implementing preventative measures will help with the control of the spread of the virus. If schools have a suspected case of coronavirus, they need to report it to PHE. PHE will then assign a health protection team to the school to help implement special measures to contain the associated risks, including carrying out a risk assessment with the school.
Please note, unless there is a suspected case of coronavirus, schools should stay open and implement additional health protection measures, such as ensuring pupils and staff regularly wash their hands. Schools should also inform pupils about the importance of good personal hygiene and how they can prevent the spread of disease. Schools can use PHE resources here.
Schools can keep up-to-date with government updates for schools on coronavirus here.
There are also guidance and templates available in our resource pack to help schools understand coronavirus and the associated risks – access more information here.
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BBC (2020) ‘Coronavirus: Pupils learn online as coronavirus closes school’ <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-51749772> [Accessed: 9 March 2020]
DfE, PHE (2020) ‘COVID-19:guidance for educational settings’ sections 5-8 <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19> [Accessed: 9 March 2020]
Hall, A., (2020) ‘Safeguarding Briefing – 9th March 2020’
Independent (2020) ‘Coronavirus: UK schools prepare for online classes in event of widespread closures’ <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/coronavirus-school-closures-online-classes-teachers-pupils-uk-a9376181.html> [Accessed: 9 March 2020]