On 18 March 2020, the Welsh Government has announced that all schools in Wales should close by the end of this week due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are some practical issues to consider.
School closures will of course have a significant impact on your staff, as well as your pupils. Think about what the best methods of maintaining communication lines with your staff are, to ensure that everyone is kept properly informed through this period of disruption.
You should also consider which duties staff could undertake from home, if any, during the closure. Their mental health and wellbeing should remain your priority, and they should be made aware of the relevant lines of support that are available to them and how they access this support during the closure.
While finishing learning packs and information specific to each year group, you should be careful and ensure that children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or Additional Learning Needs (ALN) are catered for.
Regular contact with your ALNCo/SENCo, and access to any Statements or Individual Education Plans may be needed during the closure period, to assess whether adequate provision has been met.
Your ALNCo/SENCo may wish to coordinate with the Local Authority (LA) in respect of statemented pupils, in order to ascertain that the LA is discharging its duties and obligations and delivering the provision as set out in the Statement of SEN.
It would also be advisable for the ALNCo/SENCo to coordinate with the LA as to how they wish to manage planning annual reviews during the period of closure.
As GCSE or AS or A-level examinations are cancelled this year, teaching staff will have to make sure all information relating to year 11 and year 13 predicted grades are as accurate as possible, to prevent pupils being disadvantaged and gaining access to further or higher education. Timely updates via various communication methods such as Facebook, Twitter, Schoop or the Teachers2Parents App will be vital.
We would of course expect some parents and/or pupils to raise concerns regarding the process and any ramifications that this may have on their results. These will need to be considered on a case by case basis and we would suggest that guidance be sought from WJEC/CBAC and the Welsh Government in this respect.
You should also stress and remind your teaching and other staff of the data protection policies of your school or local authority, as they need to uphold these standards at home. There are several measures that can be put in place to avoid security and data breaches.
These include ensuring that staff use private and secure Wi-Fi connections, that any personal and other confidential information stored on a device is encrypted, that paper documentation is stored securely in a locked cabinet when not in use, and that business telephone or video calls are taken in a quiet room or home office, away from other family members or residents.
Your school or local authority will have compulsory employee liability insurance, protecting teaching and other staff from workplace accidents. It would be worth checking these policies, to consider whether they extend to accidents occurring in the course of work undertaken by any teaching or other staff at home and using equipment supplied to staff.
If there is any gap in insurance cover, your school or local authority should consider extending it.
Our dedicated education team can guide you through these issues, to help you work out the best way to respond practically. If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch.