School staff bulletin February 2021

This 67 page document explains the actions school leaders should take to minimise the risk of transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in their school.
It is guidance for leaders and staff in: – primary schools;  secondary schools (including sixth forms); special schools, special post-16 providers and alternative provision; 16 to 19 academies ; infant, junior, middle, upper schools; and boarding schools.


From 8 March, all pupils should attend school. Secondary pupils will be offered testing from 8 March.

To prepare for this schools should:

• review and where necessary, update their Risk Assessment to ensure they are following the system of controls to minimise the risk of infection, including to plan for asymptomatic testing;
• have a contingency plan in place for outbreaks in the school or changes in restrictions; and
• communicate any changes in the processes to parents/carers.

Much of the content in this guidance will be familiar to the school, as it replicates what was in place for the Autumn Term.

However, specific changes include:

use of face coverings in classrooms for secondary age pupils & staff
• mandatory attendance expectations in different school phases
• current expectations for clinically extremely vulnerable pupils & staff
• curriculum expectations
• elective home education
• exams

‘System of Control’ Public Health England (PHE) Advice – PREVENTION

To minimise contact with individuals who are required to self-isolate by ensuring they do not attend the school. When an individual develops Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or has a positive test pupils, staff and other adults must not come into the school if:

• they have one or more Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms
• a member of their household (including someone in their support bubble or childcare bubble if they have one) has Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms
• they are required to quarantine having recently visited countries outside the Common Travel Area
• they have had a positive test.

Where pupils in year 7 (which would be children who were aged 11 on 31 August 2020) and above are educated, we recommend additional measures – that face coverings should be worn in classrooms or during activities unless social distancing can be maintained. This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE lessons.

In primary schools, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas). Children in primary school do not need to wear a face covering.

PHE are taking this additional precautionary measure for a limited time during this period of high Coronavirus (COVID-19) prevalence in the community. These measures will be in place until Easter and will be kept under review.  Exemptions apply – refer to document.

A continuation of previous measures –

Ensure everyone is advised to clean their hands thoroughly and more often than usual – Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an easy virus to kill when it is on skin. This can be done with soap and water or hand sanitiser. You must ensure that pupils clean their hands regularly, including:

• when they arrive at the school
• when they return from breaks • when they change rooms
• before and after eating.

Ensure good respiratory hygiene for everyone by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach.

Maintain enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products, such as detergents.

Minimise contact across the site and maintain social distancing wherever possible.

Keep occupied spaces well ventilated.

Ensure individuals wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary.

“Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment). PPE is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings. A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth.”

School workforce

The expectation is that those staff not attending school who are still able to work should do so from home where possible. Some roles, such as some administrative roles, may be conducive to home working, and school leaders should consider what is feasible and appropriate.


Staff who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff are advised not to attend the workplace. Staff who are CEV will previously have received a letter from the NHS or their GP telling them this (no new letter is required), and there is guidance for everyone in this group. It
provides advice on what additional measures individuals in this group can take.  Your employer should talk to you about how you will be supported, including to work from home. Employers should continue to pay CEV staff on their usual terms.

Those living with someone who is CEV can still attend work where home-working is not possible and should ensure they maintain good prevention practice in the workplace and home settings. The shielding guidance is reviewed regularly.

Current DHSC guidance, informed by PHE, currently advises that CEV individuals should continue to shield even after they have been vaccinated. This may change as we get further data on the effects of vaccination.


Staff who are clinically vulnerable (CV) staff can continue to attend school. While in school they must follow the system of controls to minimise the risks of transmission. Staff who live with those who are CV can attend the workplace but should ensure they maintain good prevention practice in the workplace and at home.


Pregnant women are considered CV. In some cases pregnant women may also have other health conditions that mean they are considered CEV, where the advice for clinically extremely vulnerable staff will apply. The workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers.

Schools should be aware that pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions at any point of gestation, may be at greater risk of severe illness if they catch
Coronavirus (COVID-19). This is also the case for pregnant women with underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk of severe illness if they catch Coronavirus (COVID-19). PHE recommend that schools follow the same principles for pregnant pupils, in line with their wider health and safety obligations.

If members are in any doubt, please speak to your workplace representative, if you have one, or contact the branch office. The branch office phones are continually ringing, so we would advise you to use the internet to contact the office with your concerns. The branch staff will forward your details to the appropriate person who will be able to provide advice.

Please email – or use our website contact form


UNISON, along with other unions, has pressed the government for additional safety measures to be introduced for schools and colleges to ensure that children, young people, staff and their communities are safe.  Ensuring that all school staff are offered a vaccine before schools open.

There is a particular need that vulnerable staff and pupils are not sent back into enclosed spaces and full classes, given that the government has, to date, failed to introduce measures to protect pupils and staff from airborne transmission of COVID-19.

Now more than ever, you need the support of your union. Although we have to maintain social distance, we do have the capacity to hold ‘virtual’ meetings.

If you want to discuss issues of concern as part of a group, please email the branch and we will make the arrangements.  Alternatively email the branch to arrange a one-to-one discussion.

                                                             Stay Safe!  Neil