Q: Do I need to teach in adverse weather & periods of school closure?

All employers need to have a policy and measures ready to be actioned should there be adverse weather conditions (or other issues*) that affect the workplace being opened.

All employers need to have a policy and measures ready to be actioned should there be adverse weather conditions (or other issues*) that affect the workplace being opened.

(*other issues may include things such as Covid, water/heating supply issues, accessibility and safety of the site for example).

For most employers, the decision to close rests with them solely, although there are still arrangements in place where a local authority acts on behalf of maintained schools in its jurisdiction and makes a collective decision. 

Whenever this happens, it is customary for local radio stations to publicise closures, although this is now more directly achieved through school/home communication methods such as texting services and the school website.

Employees should make themselves fully aware of the communication process in their place of work should their employer ever have to close the school at short notice.

Whenever the decision is made to close the school site to pupils, the same consideration applies to staff. The reasonable expectation is that staff can undertake work-related activities at their home for the duration of the closure period.

When adverse weather has taken place, the decision to open the school site should be based on a number of determinations, these being whether the site has safe access for all visitors, be they pedestrians and drivers; the advice of the local authority as relevant; the advice from the local police and other local agencies regarding travel conditions and the availability of staff, many of whom will be travelling from outside of the local area.

NSEAD does not support the keeping of school open when common sense and available advice is strongly suggestive that the site must remain closed. Decisions such as this need to be taken periodically because of the British climate, and people are generally accepting of this if as much notice as possible can be given as early as possible. 

In terms of employers communicating to staff that there is an expectation for school closure days to be made up by employees giving up leave, training days, PPA time or pay, then these suggestions must be very firmly resisted.

Working through extended periods of school closure during the Covid pandemic has shown beyond doubt that employees are adaptable and that they have demonstrated a willingness to act professionally, often going above and beyond what has been expected from them to ensure that pupils receive their educational entitlement.

Most employers will now have policies to deal with interruptions to lessons brought about by Covid, however these policies may not be readily transferable for periods of closure brought about by adverse weather.

There should be no expectation that teachers will deliver online lessons for short periods of closure due to adverse weather, however, it would be reasonable for employees to be contributing to online lesson resources so pupils can access learning whilst away from school.

If the decision is made to open the school site, then all employees must make all reasonable efforts to get into work. This must be predicated on safety to do so and each individual employee must evaluate the feasibility of travelling to work depending upon their own factors. However, there must be no expectation whatsoever that individual teachers should be walking miles in adverse weather conditions to attend their place of work. Where a decision is made not to travel to work based on safety factors, employees must communicate this to their employer as soon as they can to discuss the situation.

This information is necessary as employers will need to ensure that staff:pupil rations for those able to attend the workplace are suitable, appropriate and safe.

If further advice is required, NSEAD members should [javascript protected email address] for support.