Stay safe and healthy
Omicron Variant update
NSEAD members may be concerned about the new Omicron variant and the measures that their employer is taking to adequately control risk due to the high numbers of transmission being currently experienced. Wherever you have concerns, consider doing the following:
· Ask to see the recent risk assessment updates to identify what mitigations and risk control measures have been put into place in your school (remember – a risk assessment is a live document and should be updated regularly and especially when a new highly transmissible variant is present).
· If your employer is unable to show what steps it has taken to put in place appropriate measures to secure the safety of staff and pupils, you should contact NSEAD for further advice.
· If you believe that your safety is in serious and even imminent risk, NSEAD members should inform their line manager immediately (or whomever the risk assessment holds accountable). Your employer should provide an urgent reply to reassure and confirm that appropriate safety measures are in place.
· If your concerns continue, you need to further inform your employer. You should tell them what your specific concerns are and what you will do if these are not rectified. Your employer needs to be presented with an opportunity to address your concerns and rectify them.
More information here:
Track and Trace
At a briefing with the Schools Stakeholder Advisory Group on the 1st December, Baroness Harding set out arrangements for Track and Trace and mass testing for schools. Documents with details are here;
As an affiliate member of the TUC, we are able to work with other education TUs in determining best advice to our members. The TUC continue to be extremely active in developing their own guidance and coordinating affiliate TUs to develop Covid-19 guidance that sets out helpful information for members on where to find the latest guidance on employment and Covid-19 safety issues, Government weblinks and legal entitlement. You can access the TUC Covid-19 Coronavirus Guidance to Unions (updated January 2021) here.
Guidance for practical activity
NSEAD continues to signpost our members to CLEAPSS guidance, and we are liasing with CLEAPSS on updates for Art and Design. We are not aware of any planned subject specific guidance from the Scottish Schools Education Reserch Centre, but generic guidance can be found here, also STEM subjects advice that may be useful here. We have also worked with our sister education trade unions to produce a health and safety checklist to support members as they review arrangements in their schools.
NSEAD members may want to reflect on whether they wish to use this checklist as a means to check the actions their school is taking, or identify any specific questions they can use to seek confirmation on specific actions, particularly from the school Health and Safety Lead Officer or ultimately from the Headteacher or Principal.
We appreciate that NSEAD members need to be confident about their plans to make their art and design classrooms Covid secure. With so much local variation and remaining uncertainties, we are not able to provide definitive directives that can be universally applied. We have today set out some principles and subject specific advice that we hope will support the different approaches in member's settings.
These should be considered alongside the relevant Government guidance, CLEAPSS advice and the Trade union checklist.
Partial reopening of schools
NSEAD members want to return to their art classrooms as soon as possible. Pupils need the art, craft and design equipment and materials and teaching that they can only get in a classroom environment. But this can only happen when we are fully confident that allowing our children to return to school is safe - for everybody.
During this time, NSEAD has been working with an alliance of Education Trade Unions, calling for the safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle. We called on the government to step back from the 1st June as a fixed date for relaxing school closures, and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out. We have made it clear that the best way to do this is through a national taskforce for safe schools, with government, unions and education stakeholders.
Our letter to headteachers sets out our support for our members and I would urge all NSEAD Trade Union members to download it here and send it to your headteacher.
NSEAD is fully committed to getting pupils back to their art rooms – but for the sake of our children, our members and our communities this can only happen when it is safe to do so.
See the principles and tests for safe return, agreed by the alliance of unions here: https://www.nsead.org/coronavirus/daily-updates/
Managing remote learning
NSEAD has been clear that we expect teachers and students to be treated with care and flexibility as schools adapt to an entirely new approach to teaching and learning, with teachers, students, parents and carers working from home. Expectations that an equivalent, fully realised level of curriculum provision, assessment and feedback can be established at speed are entirely unrealistic, and put staff, students and families under unacceptable pressure.
Parents and carers do not all have the resources to supervise and support home learning, pupils do not have equal access to resources, equipment or internet in their own homes. Teachers have distinctive pressures of their own - whether caring responsibilities, health concerns as well as skills and capacity to deliver a new educational model, without the time and training ideally required.
This must be recognised, and arrangements during the Coronavirus restrictions must reflect this. We know that our members want to do the best that they can, that they want to maintain high standards and to ensure that their pupils do not suffer from the limiting of creative learning. We believe that our subject is vital to health and well being - now is the time it is surely needed most. But, NSEAD asks, that teachers are allowed the time needed to pause, to be kind to themselves, so that they can best serve their pupils.
Our expectation for our members is as follows:
Online learning and safeguarding:
We are all turning to online tools to help us continue to operate during the Coronavirus restrictions. E-learning platforms, video conferencing, messaging and social media sites provide a wealth of opportunities to communicate and share material between colleagues and with pupils and their families. With that wealth of opportunity there is also a need for caution, to safeguard both staff and students.
NSEAD’s Council and Forum have put together a list of reviewed resources in our resources page, as part of #NSEADcreate. We will be developing this section over the next few weeks, with more guidance and ideas for remote working - and how to make it work.
As well as remote learning provision, teachers have been designated as key workers and many will be supporting on-site provision for the care of vulnerable children and the children of other key workers. With mounting concerns about the protection of front line staff in the NHS and care settings, NSEAD continues to call for the Government employers to take all necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of staff who continue to work on-site. This means:
When on site caring for vulnerable children and children of key workers, teachers must not be required to attend meetings,complete paperwork or planning related to remote learning provision.
NSEAD asks that employers set out their expectations clearly to staff. That these expectations are realistic, and recognise that normal standards of provision are not appropriate or achievable at this time. We repeat our call for respect, care and kindness for all within our education community.