Update 23rd March 9am

School Closures

As schools open this morning, operating a skeleton service for key workers, staff who are deployed to work onsite are understandably concerned about their ongoing risk of exposure to the Coronavirus. Over the weekend, headteachers warned that the level of requests they have received to admit pupils may not be tenable.  

NSEAD urges schools to do all that they can to ensure the safety and well being of those staff who are manning Key worker support rotas, and those pupils still attending school. 

We are particularly concerned about reports from our members working in the independent sector of more than 50% of their pupils expected to be in school this morning. Independent schools are caught between advice to close that is not currently being enforced by Government, and the contradictory demands of parents requiring childcare to enable them to continue to work We call for Government to provide much more robust directives to parents and carers. Those children who can be at home should be at home – whether in public or privately funded settings.

Our advice to members who find that they are delivering skeleton services to unacceptably high numbers of children, is to ask your school management and governors to confirm the arrangements to safeguard the health of all those required to be onsite. Specifically, how will they:

enforce social distancing actions within the school, including 2m distance between individuals
provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff working onsite
providing surgical quality face masks for pupils
maintain the most stringent standards of hygiene - extent and frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, availability of hand sanitizer, etc

NSEAD recognises that headteachers and Governing bodies are under immense strain at this time, and that their intentions will surely be to protect their staff and students. Ultimately it is up to the Government to support them.

Impact on examinations and assessment

We await further information from Ofqual, the SQA and the examining bodies about arrangements for summer series assessments and awarding of grades. We fully expect additional detail to cover the full range of courses that are affected, including BTECs and other vocational courses.

In Higher Education, institutions are responding individually, with different arrangements to allow students to progress to the next year of their courses and for final year students to be awarded with qualifications. Whilst we appreciate that these decisions must be made at local level, we are concerned the very specific needs of practice- based courses are leading to delays in measures to ensure that staff and students are able to follow social distance guidelines. Whilst studios and workshops remain open, and assessment arrangements still require full submissions, inevitably anxious students are continuing to work onsite, putting themselves and others at risk of contagion. NSEAD calls on all HE providers to ensure that students and staff are not being put at unnecessary risk.

Update 20th March

Update 20th March 8pm

Impact on Examinations

The government announced today further details on exams and grades. The stated intention is to ensure GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in.

There are two options:

For those who need an exam grade this summer, the exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.

There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to. NSEAD have written to Ofqual asking for more information about the arrangements for Art and Design candidates who wish to follow this option. It is not clear whether this will mean all externally moderated components, and we have asked for details of how submission, assessment and moderation will be managed. We will provide more detailed information when we have it.

SQA have not provided any further update. We have written expressing our concern that teachers have been asked to continue to work with young people to ensure that any units and coursework are completed and estimated grades are provided, to SQA’s existing deadlines, or earlier if that is possible.


Sick pay and support for business

The Chancellor announced today measures to further support employers to continue to pay employees during periods of closure. These measures - a new coronavirus job retention scheme are specifically aimed at employers (including charitable and non profit) with grants to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll rather than being laid off .

Teachers working on a supply basis who are on contract with an agency or school may be eligible, depending on the terms of the terms of their contracts.

Teachers employed in schools subject to closure under the Government directive will continue to be paid as normal and should not see a reduction in pay as a result of school closure. They may be deployed according to local plans, or directed to work at home. 

The job retention scheme and payments do not apply to self employed or freelance workers. In measures announced today, they will be allowed to defer self-assessment payments until January 2021 and can claim universal credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay. However, as SSP is set at £94.25 per week, many will find that their income is significantly reduced.

NSEAD will continue to call for fair treatment of all of  our members as they work together to suppport learners at this time of  national emergency.


Update 20th March 2020 8am

This morning the Government has published detailed guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision. A list of key workers has been defined, which includes nursery and teaching staff and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID 19 response.

This means that all members who work in an educational setting should remain available for work, and be prepared to be deployed at local level, according to local plans. If you have school age children, they will be prioritised for school education along with those of other key workers and vulnerable children.

NSEAD advises members to check local plans (at local authority, Trust or school level) and be ready to be deployed to support the delivery of education services either at home, or onsite. We repeat our previous statement that we do not believe it approprate for staff who don’t have the necessary training or personal protective equipment to be required to undertake deep clean duties.

Update 18th March 2020 at 18.30

School closures

The prime minster, Boris Johnson, has today announced that it will be mandatory for schools to close from Friday 20 March in the afternoon. All schools and colleges are also expected to remain open in order to look after children and young people of key workers and vulnerable children. This is across all phases from early years to further education colleges.

Examples of key worker include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education also announced that schools will need to make provision for the children and young people of key workers and vulnerable children in the Easter vacation. 

To make this possible local authorities, academy chains, schools and colleges will be expected to give guidance and to make arrangements with teachers and other staff teams. 


Examinations will not take place in May or June this year. The prime minister has also said that progress will not be impeded as a result of their cancellation. No indication was given as to when or if they will still take place. 

NSEAD has written to Ofqual (17 March) and will be writing to SQA, in order to seek clarification and assurances that our subject-specific examination needs are given due consideration. We will be following up any responses to ensure are teachers and students remain fully informed with informed.

The DfE's announcement can be read here

We will be seeking further advice from the DfE, Ofqual and SQA to confirm the consequences and implications of these announcements on our members and their students. As soon as we have more details we will share this with you.

Update 17th March at 19:30

Disability and increased vulnerability

Pregnant women have been included in the vulnerable category. The DfE are looking to issue guidance covering HR issues in respect of high-risk members of staff.  We expect this guidance to be issued very shortly. 

NSEAD reminds employers that under HSE requirements for pregnant workers they are entitled to a risk assessment and steps to mitigate any identified risk. In the case of potential Coronavirus infection NSEAD call for pregnant workers to be allowed to work from home, with immediate effect. This should not trigger the start of maternity leave, or be treated as sick leave, but reasonable adjustment.

Employees Self-isolating

If staff have to be isolated/quarantined, then they should not be expected to take annual leave or be recorded as sick leave to cover this period – it should be special leave.  If staff are self-isolating, then for those that have the appropriate technology available and their jobs enable working from home, managers can reasonably expect them to work from home (assuming they are well enough) rather than be on leave.  However, for those who do not have that flexibility, managers should be able to approve the absence as special leave. However, if they are unwell and not able to work then this is likely to be recorded as sickness absence.

Detriment to members 

We repeat our call for employers to ensure that staff who need to self-isolate do not suffer detriment in pay, or triggers on absence policy procedures. This should apply whether as a result of infection, or household quarantine, or in extended isolation due to serious underlying health or pregnancy, or age category. This is the position being taken by many local authorities, though definitive Government guidance has not yet been issued.

Impact on examinations

NSEAD has today written to Ofqual asking for urgent clarification of the arrangements for Art and Design courses on the following points: assessment, moderation arrangements and teacher assessment

As the professional body for art, craft and design education we strongly advise that subject-specific guidance is given to schools, colleges and centres as soon as possible. At this time of national emergency, our members are extremely concerned that they cannot give the reassurances needed to their students. We ask that you take into account the unique assessment and moderation needs of art and design qualifications, and can provide the reassurances that we seek without delay. Read the full letter here.

School closures

We recognise that there remains a contradiction between government guidance to avoid gatherings of people, and the requirement of children, young people and staff in educational settings to continue to attend. This is understandably causing anxiety. The Government has said that school closures may be necessary, and they will make a decision at the appropriate time. Until then, there is no national closure of schools. Headteachers warn that increasing staff absence due to necessary self-isolation may make it difficult to keep their schools open. We advise our members to share any concerns that they have due to increased class sizes, changes to accommodation or any other factor that compromises health and safety with their school management. Follow all guidance issued by Government and health authorities. NSEAD continues to press for clear information to support schools planning and measures to safeguard staff.



Michele Gregson, General Secretary

Update 16th March at 10pm

Following the briefing today by the UK Government and advice from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer, members should be aware that new measures to curb the coronavirus are being put in place. The key new measures that may affect our members in the workplace are:


Everyone should make every effort to avoid gatherings and crowded places.

Everyone should work from home if possible

If anyone person in any household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days.

By next weekend those with the most serious health conditions must be “largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks”

Schools should stay open, although closures may become necessary at some point during the outbreak.


What does this mean for our members?

Schools and colleges are crowded places. The need to keep them open in order to support key workers must be balanced with the health and well being of employees. NSEAD asks schools to ensure that unreasonable demands are not made on teachers in order to cover for colleagues who are now absent. This includes increasing class sizes beyond the agreed maxima for that key stage. It is our opinion that parent’s evenings with in person interviews, should not take place for the duration of the outbreak, and whilst schools are still open.


If you are asked to work from home, in the event of prolonged self-isolation, or school closure, your employer should have a risk assessment in place for home working. This should cover health and safety and safeguarding issues such as the use of online platforms to support pupil learning. NSEAD reminds employers that  there should not be an automatic assumption that staff have the resources or skills to support online learning. Anything over and above normal duties, e.g. preparing home packs, is voluntary in nature and teachers cannot be instructed to prepare these without agreement and without time being identified to do so.


If you have symptoms of Covid 19, you should self-isolate for 14 days. If someone in your household has symptoms, you should self-isolate for 14 days. NSEAD expects employers to recognise that self-isolation for Covid 19 in case of infection, or precaution should not trigger any aspect of absence policy procedures, nor be part of any employee’ sickness record. Employees should not suffer any detriment in terms of pay or any other conditions of employment as a result of following measures to curb Coronovirus.


If you have a serious underlying health condition, a chronic disease or are a pregnant woman, you will be expected to self-isolate for your own protection and to reduce pressure on the NHS. You should expect this to last for around 12 weeks and will not be able to go to work until public health advice is issued. This will come into effect this weekend. NSEAD calls upon all employers to support vulnerable employees to self-isolate with immediate effect and without detriment.


A number of schools in England, Wales and Scotland have announced short term closures. Special schools in Nothern Ireland will close from Monday. Long term closure of all UK schools remains a possibility but has not been announced. Meantime, it is the expectation of NSEAD that where pupils, students, or staff have been identified as carrying the Covid 19 virus, the school, or college or University, should be closed and a deep clean enacted. In our view the closure should not be simply to accommodate the deep clean but should factor in the necessary period for self-isolation to happen e.g. a minimum of seven days.


Our members are concerned about the impact of staff and pupil absence and potential school closure on the summer examinations. Ofqual have issued guidance for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The SQA last updated on the 12th March. NSEAD advises members to discuss with your exam secretary the contingency plan that your centre has in place, and review in the context of potential long term closures of centres during the summer exam series. Specifically, consider how, if the contingency plan is invoked, you will comply with the awarding organisation’s requirements.


NSEAD will continue to respond to member concerns and give updates. I know that members will understand that if it is impossible to resolve a query it is because of the uncertainty of the situation, not through any lack of effort on the part of staff.


Michele Gregson, General Secretary NSEAD

Useful links:





Update 15th March at 9pm

As Government responses to the coronavirus pandemic develops, NSEAD will update members with the relevant advice and guidance. At this point, school closures have not been announced, but a growing number of HE institutions have suspended teaching or moved lectures and tutorials online.  Many schools are preparing for potential closure and asking staff to make plans to support home learning.

The UK Government has issued advice for educational settings about Covid 19.


NHS National Services Scotland advice is here:


Northern Ireland Education Authority here:



Employees Self-isolating

Disability and increased vulnerability

The official guidance in these links does not address the position regarding duty of care for employees who have underlying health conditions, or fall into the vulnerable age bracket and so are particularly vulnerable if they contract Covid 19. NSEAD calls upon employers to honour their duty of care, and not expect employees with underlying health conditions to be on site whilst there is a danger of exposure to the coronavirus. We advise members to take advice from their GP and to make any decision to self-isolate accordingly. If you are advised to remain off work, you should get this in writing if possible. 

Under equalities legislation, if you have a disability that makes you more susceptible to infection, your employer has a duty to carry out a risk assessment and any reasonable adjustments should be applied, including a temporary change of work location or duties.

Detriment to members

Where staff are absent from work due to self-isolation, NSEAD shares the position of the other teaching unions, and the TUC.  Appropriate arrangements should be made to ensure that the absence does not lead to any detriment to members’ pay, by ensuring that relevant procedures are used to ensure that staff receive full pay during their absence through relevant and appropriate policies such as authorised leave sick leave provisions or medical suspension. During self-isolation the staff member may not develop coronavirus and therefore authorised leave would be more appropriate than sick leave or medical suspension.

Employers should not currently be requiring Fit notes, as they are unlikely to be obtainable. The Government is developing an alternative form of evidence to the fit note. These will shortly be available through NHS online.

Until then, we advise our members to ensure that they provide details of the reasons for the self-isolation and the advice they have taken. 

NSEAD expect that any absence due to self-isolation will be disregarded and not form part of any absence management procedures.

We recognise that the current situation and an extended response may be increasing individuals’ anxiety levels, impacting on mental health, or exacerbating existing mental health conditions. If this leads to a period of absence it should be considered as normal sick leave.

If you are teaching on supply, agency workers who have three months continuous service may be entitled to statutory sick pay (subject to earning a minimum of £118 per week).

As part of emergency measures to control infection, and encourage workers to self-isolate, the Government has removed the 4-day qualifying period so this can be claimed from the first day of absence due to self-isolation. Further information here:



School Closures

At the moment there are some short-term closures of schools, mostly for deep cleaning where a case has been recorded.  These closures should be under the same terms as other enforced temporary closures (for example, in case of a health and safety risk or inclement weather). No employee should lose pay or be required to make up time missed due to closure.

Setting work for remote learning support

It is not unreasonable for teachers, if they are asked, to provide where there are facilities to do so work for pupils to do during the closure or provide remote/or online learning support. However, schools should not be imposing increased workload burdens on teachers for them to produce this work. Teachers of practical subjects may find it particularly difficult to set work as it may well require the production of a whole new set of resources for independent study, with limited materials and equipment in a home setting. Preparing these materials is workload intensive, particularly for practical subjects where there are fewer resources readily available in textbooks and online.  We advise members to highlight this in planning discussions with their school management. Where preparations are being made for this time should be given during the working day for teachers to produce these resources.

Where schools are instructed to close long term, they must have contingency plans to support remote learning. Whilst technology such as video conferencing may be part of proposals, not all pupils or teachers will have the facilities to at home to work in this way. There is no requirement for members to be set up or have the expertise to offer remote tuition. 

Where teachers can work in this way, we would ask members to be aware of the potential for online sessions to be recorded and edited, which could lead to inappropriate postings on social media. One to one tutorial via video conference should be avoided. We advise members to highlight this concern in planning meetings and seek reassurance that safeguards have been built in by your school management.

Our members are concerned about the impact on practical learning if schools are closed for a prolonged period. It is not possible to maintain the same level of teaching and learning for all pupils when they are working remotely without access to the materials, equipment and supervision provided in art rooms. There should be no monitoring of teachers’ performance during this time, and teachers should not be held accountable for the inevitable impact on pupil progress.

Impact on examinations

If the outbreak causes disruption through the examination season, awarding bodies are expected to issue appropriate guidance to schools.

Ofqual has produced guidance for schools and colleges on how to deal with significant disruption to examinations.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has a well-established examination disruption contingency plan. Although this information does not address issues related to COVID-19 directly, it is likely that it will form the basis of specific advice for examination centres if the outbreak impacts on their ability to manage candidates’ access to assessments or prevents candidates from travelling to centres.

On 2nd March, Ofqual wrote to heads of examination centres (pdf) advising that preparations for the summer examination series should continue as normal and that Ofqual will issue further advice and guidance if necessary.

NSEAD is in contact with the examining bodies to ascertain the measures they will take in specific regard to practical coursework and arrangements for moderation. We will update members when we have more information.

This is an anxious time for everyone. NSEAD calls upon schools to prioritise the safety and well being of pupils and staff. The art education community is rallying to provide support, advice and resources for teachers and their pupils. NSEAD would like to assure you of our continued support.

Wishing you all health and best wishes