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Coronavirus Update for Independent Schools - 7 May

on Thursday, 02 April 2020.

This article compiles the most useful and up-to-date advice, in order to suitably prepare for the challenges to independent schools during this time.

Most schools have now adapted to the 'new normal' and are providing a high quality of educational provision for the children of key workers and remotely. Over the course of the next week we are likely to see developments with the Government's plans for the release from lockdown, which will bring fresh challenges for schools. The job retention or furlough scheme is also currently anticipated to come to an end on 30 June. Given the reported take up of the scheme with an estimated six million staff having been furloughed at a potential cost of £8 billion, it will not come as a surprise if this is brought to an end entirely or significantly curtailed.

We are working with many schools to plan ahead to help face the challenges and we will continue to provide up to date guidance as it evolves.

Health and Safety Considerations for Staff at or Returning to Work

We know that schools are incredibly mindful of protecting the health, safety and welfare of staff who are working on site to deliver the key worker provision. Ensuring that pupils and staff can return to school on site in a way which is safe for the whole school community is going to present a further challenge.

We are already seeing concerns being raised by staff and trade unions and we may also see increased involvement from parents over how schools intend to manage the risks and safeguard their children. Schools are understandably worried about their potential liabilities if members of the community become ill. We have developed a detailed guidance note to help schools understand and discharge their responsibilities.

Workforce Planning

All schools will no doubt be faced with a concern that they may see a reduction in income and a drop in pupil numbers. As part of this schools will need to start planning for the future and, consider whether pre-crisis structures and employment costs will be sustainable.

We are working with schools who are beginning to consider their staffing structures to plan restructuring or redundancy processes. We are aware that there are a number of workload modelling tools available which schools may find helpful, including through Baines Cutler. The need to reduce cost means that many schools are also more actively looking at whether they now need to take action to withdraw from the TPS or reduce the overall cost of the teachers' pension contributions.

Any changes to staff numbers or pay and benefits will involve a consultation process. Schools can progress such processes but they do need to be handled particularly carefully in the current circumstances with many staff working remotely or furloughed.

Exam Assessment

In our April update, we outlined the Ofqual exceptional arrangements for this year's exam candidates. Ofqual is holding a series of consultations into the arrangements and we have responded to this based on feedback from our clients. It is clear that the arrangements will be heavily reliant on the professional judgement of teaching staff.

Schools will have to consider how best to support staff in this as well as manage the expectations of parents and students. Information generated in this assessment exercise may be caught by subject access rights under the data protection legislation and schools and their staff need to be alive to this.

Safer Recruitment

Schools will still need to undertake their usual recruitment processes to ensure staffing is in place for September. Schools will need to ensure that they continue to maintain a compliant single central register. The requirements remain the same but the guidance has provided some alternative ways for checks to be carried out in practice during this period.

Access Our Coronavirus Resources on OnStream

We will keep materials updated on OnStream so please do log on for the latest guidance at any time. Although the majority of us are now working remotely, we are available to all our clients (by email or mobile number, details of which are available on our website) and so please do contact us for support.

VWV Plus eLearning Solutions

Our eLearning platform can support your school in a number of useful ways during this time:

  • to circulate key information, such as updated safeguarding and home working guidance, and track that they have been read by your staff
  • our GDPR courses are perfect for reminding staff about the importance of data protection and information security while working remotely

Get in touch with Imogen Street at istreet@vwv.co.uk or on 07384 545998. Alternatively complete the form below to find out more about eLearning Solutions.

Do you have further questions in relation to the spread of coronavirus? Please contact Tabitha Cave in our Independent Schools team on 0117 314 5381, or complete the form below.

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