Education Restart

We have developed this dedicated section on the EA website that provides Frequently Asked Questions, information and guidance to support Education Restart.

Frequently Asked Questions for Children and Young People on Education Restart

Transport FAQs

Home to School Transport FAQs – Pupils and FE students
DATE: 16 October 2020

Is school transport running during the schools’ extended mid-term break?

Whilst colleges remain open FE students will still be able to travel.  EA yellow buses and contracted buses will operate as normal and FE students can use their Translink travel pass on the regular network.  You must check the timetable before travelling as the schedule may have changed.

Other school services will not be operating from 19th October – 30th October; except for a small number of cases where education settings remain open and transport is still required. 

What should I do to keep safe on school transport?

 

DO

  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer when you get on board.
  • Wear a face covering on all school transport, regardless of age, when you can.
  • Catch It, Bin It, Kill it!
  • Fill seats from the back and sit apart if possible.
  • If you can’t, sit with a brother/sister or someone from your class, year or school.
  • Try to sit in the same seat each day.
  • Give other passengers space when queuing, and getting on and off the vehicle

DO NOT

  • Travel if you are have symptoms of COVID-19, have a confirmed diagnosis or have been advised to isolate.
  • Share phones or other personal items with others.
  • Eat or drink on board (unless for medical purposes).
  • Approach the driver.
  • Leave litter on board.

Do I have to socially distance on school transport?

It depends on the type of transport you use:

  1. EA yellow bus, a bus/taxi hired by the EA, or a Translink ‘School’ service - social distancing is encouraged but not required.   
  2. Translink public bus and rail services – social distancing is required.

Will I travel in my school or college bubble?

It’s unlikely you’ll travel in the same bubble that you’re in at school or college, so try to sit with your brother/sister or other class mates. 

Will my escort travel with me?

Yes, your escort will still travel with you. They might be wearing a mask or face visor so that you both stay safe if they need to come close and give you some help. 

Do I have to wear a face covering on school transport?

Please wear a face covering on all school transport, regardless of your age, if you can. Pupils aged 13 and over must wear them if they can on public transport.

If you receive school transport assistance you can collect a free pack of face masks from your school. 

How often will my bus or taxi be cleaned?

Buses and taxis should be cleaned every day. Common touch points such as seat belt buckles and grab rails will also be cleaned regularly throughout the day.

Transport Assistance for FE students

FE students should apply for transport assistance online.  Paper forms will still be accepted if you cannot get online.

If you travel on EA scheduled transport, such as a taxi, your college’s official timetable will be used to confirm pick up & drop off times and we will contact you to confirm the arrangements.

Whilst colleges remain open in October FE students will still be able to travel.  EA yellow buses and contracted buses will operate as normal and FE students can use their Translink travel pass on the regular network.  You must check the timetable before travelling as the schedule may have changed.

If you travel by taxi please let your Operator know as early as possible if you will be unable to travel on any given day.

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents and Families on Education Restart

Transport FAQs

Home to School Transport FAQs – Parents
DATE: 16 October 2020

Is school and FE transport running during the schools’ extended mid-term break?

Whilst colleges remain open FE students will still be able to travel.  EA yellow buses and contracted buses will operate as normal and FE students can use their Translink travel pass on the regular network.  You must check the timetable before travelling as the schedule may have changed.

Other school services will not be operating from 19th October – 30th October; except for a small number of cases where education settings remain open and transport is still required. 

What should pupils and students do to keep safe on school transport?

DO

  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer when you get on board.
  • Wear a face covering on all school transport, regardless of age, when you can.
  • Catch It, Bin It, Kill it!
  • Fill seats from the back and sit apart if possible.
  • If you can’t, sit with a brother/sister or someone from your class, year or school.
  • Try to sit in the same seat each day.
  • Give other passengers their space when queuing, and getting on and off the vehicle


DO NOT

  • Travel if you are have symptoms of COVID-19, have a confirmed diagnosis or have been advised to isolate.
  • Share phones or other personal items with others.
  • Eat or drink on board (unless for medical purposes).
  • Approach the driver.
  • Leave litter on board.

We understand some of these may not be possible, but if a passenger is putting anyone’s safety at risk during this time we retain the right to withdraw transport assistance.

Is social distancing required on school transport?

It depends on the type of transport you use:

  1. Dedicated school transport e.g. EA yellow bus, a bus/taxi hired by the EA, or a Translink ‘School’ service - strict social distancing is encouraged but not required so these vehicles operate at their normal capacity.   
  2. Public transport e.g. Translink public bus and rail services – Social distancing is required on public transport.

Will pupils travel in their school or college bubble?

The Department of Education advise that there may be mixing of wider groups on home to school transport.  As such the Education Authority is not able to provide individual or additional bus/taxi services for pupils on the grounds of children travelling alongside pupils from other classes/schools unless we are advised of specific medical needs for children who are immunosuppressed.

Will escorts travel with pupils?

Yes, escorts will still travel with pupils if it is required. They will try to give pupils as much distance as possible but their role will mean they will be in close contact. 

To protect them both they will be wearing PPE which could include a mask and face shield.  Parents should prepare their child for this.

Do pupils have to wear a face covering on school transport?

Face coverings  are strongly encouraged on all school transport, regardless of age, if you are able to wear and use them. They are mandatory for those aged 13 and over on public transport.

The EA has made a pack of masks available to all pupils who receive school transport assistance.  These can be collected from your school. 

Do drivers/escorts have to wear a face covering on school transport?

EA drivers and escorts have been provided with a face covering and other PPE.  However there will continue to be exemptions for certain individuals and, though still encouraged, drivers don’t have to wear a face covering if they have a screen installed. 

Similar guidance and assistance has been provided to private bus and taxi operators, however it is the Operator’s responsibility to make sure their drivers and escorts are supplied with and use appropriate PPE.

Are there ‘extra’ bus or taxi routes operating during COVID-19?

No.  As strict social distancing is not required on dedicated transport e.g. EA buses, private taxis and buses, these vehicles are expected to operate at their normal capacity and there are not currently resources for additional services.

Translink has received some investment to ensure there is sufficient network capacity for pupils as social distancing is still required on their vehicles.  They are converting some scheduled, public services to dedicated school services and are also re-directing some vehicles to supplement the number of buses on existing routes. 

Could COVID-19 disrupt school transport provision?

We’re making every effort to limit the impact of COVID-19 on our operations but there may be times when staff or vehicles are not available.  Unfortunately this might be at short notice and while we will do our best to communicate this, parents are reminded that school transport should only be used during COVID-19 where they have no other alternative.

How often are vehicles cleaned?

EA, Translink and private operators’ vehicles will be cleaned daily. Common touch points such as seat belt buckles, grab rails, handles will be cleaned regularly throughout the day.

Is concessionary transport available?

We will continue to provide concessionary transport to pupils who received it last year unless we require the seat for an eligible pupil.

New requests for concessionary transport are now being processed however the responsibility for making transport arrangements rests with parents in the meantime.

My school has contacted me to say my child is a close contact of a confirmed case. Can school transport bring my child home?

No.  If your child has been identified as a close contact, and therefore advised to isolate, they cannot use school transport. 

Can transport accommodate a change to a school’s opening or closing time?

We will work closely with schools however it might not always be possible to change our service times.  If this is the case schools should make parents aware of this if they proceed with changed times.   

Transport Assistance for FE students

FE students should apply for transport assistance online.  Paper forms will still be accepted if a student cannot avail of the online service.

For students, who travel on EA scheduled transport such as a taxi, we will use your college’s official timetable to confirm pick up & drop off times and we will contact you to confirm the arrangements.

Whilst colleges remain open in October FE students will still be able to travel.  EA yellow buses and contracted buses will operate as normal and FE students can use their Translink travel pass on the regular network.  You must check the timetable before travelling as the schedule may have changed.

If you travel by taxi please let your Operator know as early as possible if you will be unable to travel on any given day.

Are there specific arrangements for pupils who are immunosuppressed?

There are a very small number of children who, due to being immunosuppressed, may require alternative transport arrangements during Covid-19.

In these circumstances information would be required from a paediatrician and parents should be advised to contact their local transport office.

Free School Meals/Uniform Grants FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions for Education Settings on Education Restart

Admissions FAQs

Pre-School, Primary and Post Primary Admissions procedures

The Education Authority Admissions Service processed 75,000+ applications for the school year 2020-2021 by the closing dates:-

28 April 2020   Pre-School Stage 1 (Target Only)

28 April 2020   Primary 1

3 June 2020    Year 8 Post Primary

8 June 2020    Pre-School Stage 2 (Target/Penultimate)

EA staff and pre-schools/schools were in the midst of the admissions procedures when they were faced with many challenges due to COVID-19 from March 2020.  Everyone continued to meet deadlines whilst working remotely and developing innovated measures in order to continue to deliver the admissions procedure for 2020-2021.

The EA also, due to many pre-schools/schools working on a restrictive basis continued to ensure after the admissions procedures had closed that parents, who still needed to make application, were able to do so.

Making decisions on new applications or recalling from waiting list

We ask those schools or playgroups, who have new applications to consider, to make appropriate arrangements for timely decisions to be made.

The Education Authority (EA) acknowledges that during these exceptional circumstances some schools or playgroups have and may continue to encounter logistical limitations or other difficulties or having to make alternative arrangements for those involved in admission decisions e.g. using Skype or telephoning conferencing to continue to make timely decisions on applications. 

IMPORTANT NOTIFICATION - Compliance with GDPR

In all cases you should comply with current GDPR regulations.  Reminder GDPR information can be accessed here.

If the EA Admissions service still needs to communicate with pre-school/schools, how will they do this?

For general communications:

  • Using the general distribution email we hold and have been using for your pre-school/school; or
  • Via the EA Website.
  •  

For pupil related information we will continue to exchange applicant and other supporting documents as necessary:

  • To schools (connected to C2k) through AnyComms+ (guidance on how to access both within and outside school is available on the Digital Hub and C2K Exchange EN169).
  • To nursery schools and playgroups via your school portal email address.

For any other communications we will send to your normal school or playgroup email account.

Please regularly check the communication channels identified above for any information that we may have sent you. 

If I still need to access my school network and/or the school portal for online admissions, how do I do this?

For a Pre-School/Primary School the School Portal, as a web-based system, can be accessed from any location (link available on EA Digital Admissions Hub).  As the Pre-School and Primary Admissions Procedures are now closed you will only be able to view applications or print reports now.  Any updates for a child’s record should be emailed as applicable to preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk or primaryadmissions@eani.org.uk

For access to your school network we understand that schools connected to C2k are guided by Information Sheets ENO24 Accessing MySchool Outside School and ENO88 Accessing SIMS from Home. These are available on C2k Exchange. If you feel you need support to access your C2k school network please refer to Information Sheet EN088 or contact the C2k Service Desk for further advice on 08706 011666.

For Nursery Schools and Playgroups, if you are not able and need to access your network, email account and/or school portal email account (if different), anywhere else other than at your own setting, you should let us know immediately by emailing preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk

Placement notifications for Pre-School / Primary 1 / Year 8 Post Primary?

The EA as previously communicated made arrangements for the close of each of the admissions procedures to issue notification of placement letters to parents/guardians.  75,000+ letters were issued by the EA.

Where you now make a decision on a new application to offer a place to a child you can contact the parent/guardian directly. 

Where you are in a position to recall a child because a place has become available you can contact the parent/guardian directly, but for pre-school, firstly contact the EA Pre-School Admissions Office. 

In all cases where there is a change to a child’s record e.g. address, you should contact the respective EA Admissions Office.

What did the EA include in the placement letters that were issued to parents/guardians on behalf Board of Governors and Management Committees?

The letter outlined the application outcome, provided information on the appeals process and linked the parent/guardian to the EA website for more information.  

In advising the parent/guardian that their child had been offered a place, all letters advised, that for a small number of schools or playgroups the offer of a place may be conditional on a parent/guardian providing the school or playgroup with verifying information in line with their published admissions criteria and that any school or playgroup in this position, will be in touch with parent(s)/guardian(s) when they are able to do so.

The letter also advised a parent/guardian that they could communicate their acceptance or non-acceptance of the offer of a place by emailing the school or playgroup and where not accepting the offer, to copy their email to the respective Admissions Office.  

The EA Digital Admissions updates 7, 8 and 9 as previously issued are viewable on the EA Digital Admissions Hub.

Were parents/guardians given a timescale to advise pre-schools/schools of their acceptance or decline of an offer?

In the letter from the EA a parent/guardian was asked to email a school/playgroup their acceptance or decline of the offer and where they declined the offer to copy to the relevant EA Admissions Office.  There was no timescale given in the letter.
As you were going to be receiving the responses from parents/guardians each school/playgroup was then able to use their discretion as to how to follow up any outstanding responses in advance of the start of the new academic year.

If the parent/guardian did not receive their letter due to postal delays how can they find out the outcome of their application?

The EA would hope that the parents/guardians whom they wrote to on behalf of schools/playgroups would have received at this stage their notification of placement.
In addition to issuing letters the EA had opened the Citizen Portal on the 29 April 2020 to allow parents/guardians who had applied online for Pre-School or Primary 1 in January 2020 to view the outcome of the application.
For all admissions procedures parents were able to contact the EA Admissions Helpdesk. In addition to this for the post primary placement notifications, primary school principals provided support in advising parents of the outcome of their application.  Parents who have only made an application now will be advised by the school/playgroup directly. 

The Board of Governors or Management Committee were only in a position to issue a conditional offer for the child as the offer was subject to receipt of verifying documents, how will I obtain these documents to finalise the offer of a place?

When advising the parent/guardian that their child has been offered a place, all letters indicated, that for a small number of schools or playgroups the offer of a place may be conditional on a parent/guardian providing the school or playgroup with verifying information in line with their published admissions criteria and that any school or playgroup in this position, will be in touch with parent(s)/guardian(s) when they are able to do so.

Schools or playgroups in this position will need to make their own arrangements taking into account how they can do this in line with any GDPR requirements or indeed the current PHA guidance on social distancing.  These are challenging times whilst you continue to make arrangements for your admissions intake and it is recommended that all guidance is followed.  You could make arrangements to receive the information securely, whether by post or email from the parent(s)/guardian(s).

I need to access information from the School Portal for Pre-School Stage 1 or Primary 1 admissions, can I still do this?

As mentioned above you will continue to be able to view and print reports should you need to, but you will not be able to allocate or refuse places.
Any update for a child’s application should be communicated by email to the respective EA Admissions Office.

Our Pre-School setting offers a morning and afternoon session, when do I advise a parent/guardian which session their child has been placed in?

Pre-School legislation enables parents to list full-time or part-time preferences, it does not recognise morning and afternoon sessions as preferences therefore the placing of a child in a morning or afternoon session is not part of the preference based admissions process.

If this relates to the provision offered in your pre-school and you still need to advise parents you can make the necessary arrangements to inform a parent/guardian when you are able to do so. 

A parent/guardian has informed our school/playgroup of a change of address – who do I need to tell?

For Pre-School/Primary the Applicant and Pupil Details Correction Form (Accessible on the Digital Admissions Resource Hub) can be forwarded to primaryadmissions@eani.org.uk or preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk as appropriate.   Post Primary Admissions can be contacted on postprimaryadmissions@eani.org.uk

If you had not previously notified EA of a change or a parent has since advised you of a change, you should now email the above mailboxes with the details.

Will Covid-19 have an impact on the School Admissions Appeals Process?

Recent legislation has been passed to allow appeals to take place via live audio/video link.  The EA Admissions Service have been working hard investigating and making preparations in relation to how and when it can hold appeals and as part of the preparations appellants were emailed to advise on the options available to conduct their appeal this year i.e. through Microsoft Teams, at an EA Venue or opt not to appear in person. Relevant schools were also contacted.

Parents/guardians will be contacted by the Education Authority when their appeal has been scheduled and will be given 5 working days written notice of the date, time and arrangements of the hearing.  Schools will also be contacted.

Further information on appeals is available on our website https://www.eani.org.uk/parents/admissions/admissions-appeals

If you have any further queries about the appeals process please contact our Admissions Helpdesk on 028 9598 5595.

Parents/Guardians may want to contact our school or playgroup to enquire how the published admissions criteria was applied to their child.

As standard procedure when informing a parent/guardian of their right to appeal in accordance with the school admissions appeals procedure, they are advised that they may wish to contact the school which has not selected their child for admission to discuss the reason why he/she was not offered a place, so as to assist them in deciding whether to appeal the decision.  In accordance with the published admissions criteria, it is only the Board of Governors and/or its selected admissions committee, who can advise a parent/guardian how the criteria was applied to their child.

There is no right of appeal against the decision to refuse a child admission in a voluntary/private playgroup, but as the Management Committee are responsible for applying its published admissions criteria if oversubscribed with applications for funded places available, a parent/guardian is advised to make contact with the respective playgroup, if they wish to find out why their child was refused a funded place.

A parent/guardian will be directed to the EA website to find contact details of schools/playgroups, therefore, you should endeavour to make arrangements for parental enquiries to be dealt with as appropriate.

A parent/guardian may want to contact our school or playgroup to find out where their child is on our waiting list?

Where a waiting list is in place it is only the school or playgroup who can advise a parent/guardian as to what their waiting list policy is and as applicable, the child’s position on that list.

A parent/guardian will be directed to the EA website to find contact details of schools/playgroups, you should endeavour to make arrangements for parental enquiries to be dealt with as appropriate.

Is it anticipated that the 2020-2021 academic year will still be at the beginning of September?

The Department of Education have published ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Education Restart’ guidance and schools and playgroups should consider this guidance when making arrangements for children returning to education.

DE Guidance - Pre-School Education Guidance for Re-Opening Settings – Published 23 June 2020

DE Guidance – Re-Opening Schools Guidance ‘New School Day’ – Published 19 June 2020

When should we contact parents/guardians about induction arrangements, collation of data collection information (if applicable); or uniform information?

Schools and Playgroups should take the necessary decisions in line with the Department of Education guidance on ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Education Restart’.

How will a parent/guardian know how to make contact with our school or playgroup?

The EA will be directing parents/guardians to its website to find this information https://www.eani.org.uk/search-schools.

Would it be advisable for our school or playgroup to have a notice on our website or have an autoreply message on our email account to advise parents/guardians of any contingency contact arrangements due to the exceptional COVID-19 circumstances?

Whilst this is a matter for each school and playgroup to make their own decisions, and many of you may have this already in place, we would recommend this in line with good customer service practice i.e. if there is a change to normal business.  This could be done through a number of forms of communications e.g. whether diverting telephones or providing a voicemail with an option to leave a message and making arrangements to check these as regularly as you can, or by accessing your school/playgroup emails remotely or providing an auto message such as:-

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic we are working on a restrictive basis. Your email will be attended to as soon as practically possible.

You may also wish to prepare any required communications for parents taking account of the Department of Education guidance on ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Education Restart’.

Are parents/guardians aware to be mindful that due to Covid-19 some schools/playgroups may be working on a restrictive basis but will endeavour to respond to enquiries?

Yes, parent/guardians are reminded that during this unprecedented time there may be some changes to normal business and to have patience when making contact.

Update on entering the children’s details on SIMS (Primary or Nursery Unit)

We had previously advised that we had been liaising with our software provider to develop an automatic link to upload pupil details to SIMS. We acknowledge your patience while development work on this area has been taking place.
We has previously reported that C2k and EA, having conducted testing of the file transfer facility, were not satisfied with the current process.

Unfortunately, it will not be possible to offer this facility to schools for 2020-2021 admissions. Schools should, if not already done, key pupil details into SIMS and refer to the C2k guidance ‘Admissions Procedures Primary 2020’ which is available on C2k Exchange. As advised this work did not have to be completed prior to issue of placement letters but rather can be completed in advance of the pupil’s start date.

Who can I contact about the admissions procedure if I have a query?

Should you have any queries or need support the EA Admissions staff continue to be contactable as follows:-

Telephone Number 028 9598 5595 or by emailing

preschooladmissions@eani.org.uk 

primaryadmissions@eani.org.uk 

postprimaryadmissions@eani.org.uk

Cleaning Service FAQs

How regularly should each location be cleaned?

A normal summer clean will have been implemented in advance of the new school term.

Regular cleaning plays a vital role in limiting the transmission of COVID-19.

As a minimum, frequently touched surfaces should be wiped down twice a day and one of these should be at the beginning or the end of the school day. EA cleaning staff will continue to undertake the normal cleaning regime at the end of each school day. Building Supervisors should continue to provide an ongoing cleaning service to the entire premises (including toilet areas) throughout the school day.

What type of cleaning should be undertaken?

In accordance with PHA guidance the normal system of work in relation to cleaning should be maintained, with the emphasis of cleaning being placed on high-contact areas such as sanitary areas, WC’s, sinks, taps, door handles/push plates, handrails, table/desk tops, chairs, benches & light switches. 

Building Supervisors should continue to provide an ongoing cleaning service to the entire premises dealing with such things as spillage, flooding, midday toilet cleaning, litter or any cleaning problem associated with weather conditions.

Reducing clutter and removing difficult to clean items can make cleaning easier.

Staff should keep their own workspace clean.  Schools should supply staff with cleaning materials such as antibacterial wipes or disinfectant with disposable cloths to keep their own desk/table/workstation clean. 

Staff are responsible for cleaning personal items that have been brought to work and are likely to be handled at work or during breaks, e.g. mobile phone, and should avoid leaving them down on communal surfaces or they will need to clean the surface after the personal item is removed.

What additional PPE should cleaning staff wear?

When cleaning surfaces, it is not necessary to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) or clothing over and above what would usually be used. Cleaning staff should wear the following PPE; gloves, aprons and have access to hand washing facilities/hand sanitiser.

What cleaning products should be used?

All contact/touch surfaces should be cleaned with a germicidal disinfectant such as Diversy Shield, Evans Protect or Orbio Sanitiser (Yellow).

What additional measures should be put in place for cleaners?

  • Cleaning staff should adhere to social distancing and remain apart from others for at least 2 metres.
  • Cleaning staff should remain in their designated cleaning areas.
  • Cleaning staff should thoroughly wash their hands for a least 20 seconds on entering and leaving the work place, after eating/drinking and using toilet facilities.
  • Where possible cleaning staff should stagger their start and finish times and work on a rotation basis.

Where can I get cleaning materials to allow staff/pupils to keep their own areas clean?

Contact EA Education Restart helpline on 028 3836 8186, choose option 4 for ordering PPE and cleaning materials etc.

Where can I get hand sanitiser dispensers & who ensures they are kept stocked?

Contact EA Education Restart helpline on 028 3836 8186, choose option 4 for ordering PPE and cleaning materials etc.  Building Supervisors will maintain stock levels.

What action should be taken in the event of a confirmed case of COVID 19 within the location?

Areas where a symptomatic person has passed through and spent minimal time but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids, such as corridors, can be cleaned thoroughly as normal.

Once confirmed and reported, the areas in which the confirmed case/individual has been present on that particular day should be closed off and secured until enhanced cleaning has been completed.  Only after this, can staff and children return. 

The enhanced clean will involve the normal system of work in relation to cleaning the area but with the emphasis of the work being the sanitization of high-contact areas such as toilets, door handles, desktops, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells.  Public areas where a confirmed case/individual has passed through and spent minimal time in (such as corridors) but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids should be cleaned in accordance with the normal system of work.

The minimum PPE to be worn for cleaning an area after a person with (symptoms of, or) confirmed case of COVID 19, has left the setting is disposable gloves and an apron. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after all PPE has been removed.

How should waste be dealt with?

Waste does not need to be segregated unless and individual in the setting shows symptoms of or tests positive for COVID-19.

EA cleaning staff will continue to empty bins as part of the normal cleaning regime at the end of each school day. Building Supervisors should ensure that bins within the building complex are emptied on a daily basis.  They should also ensure litter bins within the building complex are washed and cleaned (including school meals bins).

Personal waste from individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 and waste from cleaning areas where they have been should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full. The plastic bag should then be placed in a second bin bag and tied. This waste should be stored safely and kept away from children. It should not be placed in communal waste areas until negative test results are known, or the waste has been stored for at least 72 hours. If the individual tests negative, this can be disposed of immediately with the normal waste. If COVID-19 is confirmed this waste should be stored for at least 72 hours before disposal with normal waste.

Who has responsibility for the provision of bins?

Contact EA Education Restart helpline on 028 3836 8186, choose option 4 for ordering PPE and cleaning materials etc. 

Who has responsibility for the cleaning of staff rooms?

EA cleaning staff will continue to undertake the normal cleaning regime at the end of each school day.

Staff should use their own cup/cutlery/crockery and ensure these are cleaned straight after use.

Who has responsibility for cleaning toys etc?

Staff should follow normal cleaning protocols for these items. Hard to clean items should be removed.

For further information refer to PHA guidance on Infection prevention and control: Best practice advice for nurseries and childcare settings.

Do I need a Sanitising Machine?

No. Sanitising equipment is a reactive measure and would only be used in the instance of a confirmed case of COVID-19. The use of a sanitising machine does not negate the need for routine daily cleaning.

Health and Safety FAQs

Who should I contact about a query concerning COVID-19?

Please call our operational COVID-19 helpline 02838368186

 

Press 1 if your query is a HR issue

Press 2 if your query is in relation to the provision of School Meals

Press 3 if your query is about Home to School Transport

Press 4 if your call is Health and Safety related including Risk Assessments or the use of PPE

Press 5 if your call is in relation to Learning, Curriculum or Timetabling

Press 6  if your query is in relation to ordering PPE and Cleaning Materials

Press 7 if your require cleaning advice for Premises

Please call our operational COVID-19 helpline 02838368186

 

Can I wedge open fire doors to reduce hand contact?

Advice from EA QSHE Environmental Compliance Unit is that existing fire safety measures should not be compromised and fire doors must remain closed in order to ensure safe compartmentalisation in the event of a fire. This is in line with legislative requirements.

I am a first aider and my certificate has lapsed, when will I be able to attend training courses?

First Aid at Work or Emergency First Aid at Work certificates that expired after 16 March 2020 can remain valid until 31 October 2020 or 6 months from date of expiry, whichever is later. All requalification training for these certificates should be completed by 31 March 2021.  The EA have provided details of first aid training courses to schools.

How do I deliver first-aid safely in a COVID-19 environment?

The recommendations from HSENI is that in addition to plastic gloves, a disposable apron and facemask should be included with the school’s first aid equipment. The use of a fluid repellent surgical face mask is recommended and use of disposable eye protection (such as face visor or goggles) should be risk assessed when there is an anticipated risk of contamination with body fluids. Further guidance from HSENI on the safe delivery of first aid and CPR can be accessed here.

Has the procedure for what will happen if I have to deliver CPR to an adult casualty due to the COVID-19 environment changed?

Recognise cardiac arrest by looking for the absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing. Do not listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the patient’s mouth. If you are in any doubt about confirming cardiac arrest, the default position is to start chest compressions until help arrives. If there is a perceived risk of infection, rescuers should place a cloth/towel over the victim’s mouth and nose and attempt compression only CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance (or advanced care team) arrives. Put hands together in the middle of the chest and push hard and fast.  Early use of a defibrillator significantly increases the person’s chances of survival and does not increase risk of infection. If the rescuer has access to any form of personal protective equipment (PPE) this should be worn.  After performing compression-only CPR, all rescuers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water; alcohol-based hand gel is a convenient alternative. They should also seek advice from the NHS 111 coronavirus advice service or medical adviser.


Further advice on CPR can be accessed here

Do I give rescue breaths to a child?

It is likely that the child/infant having an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest will be known to you. We accept that doing rescue breaths will increase the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus, either to the rescuer or the child/infant. However, this risk is small compared to the risk of taking no action as this will result in certain cardiac arrest and the death of the child.

UK RESUS council provide helpful advice which can accessed here

Are there any risks associated with the use of hand sanitiser?

Risk assessments and control measures are required to manage the risks of fire, poisoning by ingestion, and poor skincare, arising from the use of alcohol based hand sanitisers. Risk assessments should consider:
 

  • location of dispensers in school;
  • storage and disposal of new and used stock;
  • the risks of ingestion;
  • fire safety measures;
  • COSHH requirements including skincare.

 

Further advice on the risks of hand sanitisers including where to locate hand sanitisers can be accessed here


Further advice from PHA on the recommendations for emollients can be accessed here.

It is recommended that hand sanitisers are only to be used if hand washing facilities are not available.

Can I use a non-alcohol hand sanitiser?

To protect yourself from COVID-19 you should use an alcohol based sanitiser when hand washing is not available.  Adult supervision is recommended for children under the age of 6 years when using alcohol hand sanitisers.

How do schools maintain good personal hygiene amongst pupils throughout the school day?

Guidance from Northern Ireland Re-opening Schools, New School Day, recommends that:


Children should wash their hands thoroughly on arrival at the education setting and this must be a repeatable discipline throughout the day. Frequent washing (in tepid/lukewarm water) for 20 seconds and drying thoroughly (hand dryer, paper towels/not shared towel), particularly when entering/leaving the building and always before/after eating as set out by PHA:

 

  • note that sanitiser is not a substitution for hand washing;
  • younger children will require supervising / assistance with hand washing.


Where hand washing facilities are not available, then hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content should be used.

Training on good hand washing techniques can be accessed here (PPE training Videos)

Is washing your hands for 20 seconds in cold water and soap as effective in killing the COVID-19 virus as using luke warm/tepid water and soap?

Warm water is preferable, but cold water is equally as effective.


Training on good hand washing techniques can be accessed here (PPE training Videos)

Is it acceptable in schools, where pupils do not have access to sinks within their individual classrooms, to use anti- viral hand sanitiser instead of soap and water?

Hand sanitiser is recommended if soap and water is not available in the classroom, using the same 7 step technique.


Training on good hand washing techniques can be accessed here (PPE training Videos)

Will staff and pupils be provided with PPE when they return to school? (This is not face coverings. Please see below for advice on face coverings).

The PHA advises that routine use of PPE within education settings is not required other than for certain tasks deemed to be of higher risk of transmission. 

 

PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases;-

 

• working with children, young people and pupils whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE, due to their intimate care needs; and

• giving children medication.

 

PHA guidance also makes clear that staff should continue to use PPE in line with current health and safety policies and risk assessment. 

Depending on the working environment, an individual or organisational risk assessment may identify a need for PPE, including facemasks.  Staff should only wear PPE when it is appropriate to the task they are undertaking and in line with the relevant guidance.

For any contact that has been risk assessed as requiring PPE, this will be provided.

 

When PPE is used, it is essential that it is used properly. Training on the donning and doffing of PPE is required and can be accessed here

Further advice on PPE can be accessed here

In what circumstances will wearing a facemask, as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), be necessary?

The PHA advises that routine use of PPE within education settings is not required other than for certain tasks deemed to be of higher risk of transmission. 

PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases.

• working with children, young people and pupils whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE, due to their intimate care needs; and

• giving children medication.

PHA guidance also makes clear that staff should continue to use PPE in line with current health and safety policies and risk assessment. 

Depending on the working environment, an individual or organisational risk assessment may identify a need for PPE, including facemasks.  Staff should only wear PPE when it is appropriate to the task they are undertaking and in line with the relevant guidance.

For any contact that has been risk assessed as requiring PPE, this will be provided.

What PPE is required by classroom assistants who work side by side with pupils to support their learning including classroom assistants who work across more than one protective bubble, where they cannot socially distance to fulfil this role?

Public health advice should continue to be followed. PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases and staff should only wear PPE when it is appropriate to the task they are undertaking, i.e. working closely with children, young people and pupils whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE, due to their intimate care needs or administering medication. This also includes where 1 to 1 contact with pupils and other staff members is required for hand over hand assistance, the repositioning of pupils and in some cases dealing with pupils exhibiting challenging behaviour. The exception is where, following an individual or organisational risk assessment, it is found that there is a higher level of respiratory secretions present or a risk assessment identifies that there is an identified need for enhanced PPE, then it should be readily available and provided in line with public health guidance.

 

Further advice has been sought from PHA with regard to the most appropriate measures to mitigate the risk of virus transmission arising from staff moving across bubbles where they cannot socially distance to fulfil their role.  Their advice is that staff working across more than one bubble should practice good hand hygiene, washing their hands in soap and water for 20 seconds and  try to avoid touching their face.  It is recommended that resources (e.g. pens, pencils, books) should not be transferred between bubbles.  Accurate records of movements will also be helpful to schools to manage staffing concerns in circumstances where a member of staff or children should develop symptoms of the virus.   Depending on personal circumstances, staff may require individual risk assessments.

 

Further PPE advice for staff working with pupils with complex medical needs can be accessed here

 

When PPE is used, it is essential that it is used properly. Training on the donning and doffing of PPE is required and can be accessed here

Further advice on PPE can be accessed here

Is there a distinction between a facemask, used as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and face coverings?

There is a clear distinction between PPE and face coverings.

PPE is specialist medical grade equipment that has been and will continue to be used when working with some pupils whose hygiene or care needs involve the possible spread of liquids or aerosol dispersion such as vomiting or spitting.

Public Health Agency guidance makes clear that staff should continue to use PPE in line with current health and safety policies and risk assessments.

 

For any contact that has been risk assessed as requiring PPE, this will be provided. 

Further information is available within the Education Restart document here

Are there circumstances when wearing a face covering might be necessary or encouraged?

Public Health guidance recommends that face coverings are used in particular circumstances - short periods in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible. DE are now recommending that pupils and staff wear a face covering in corridors and other communal areas of post-primary schools. Coronavirus (COVID-19) usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others while also providing some protection to the wearer.

Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they’re not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.

Within Education settings:-

  • It is mandatory for all pupils aged 13 and over to wear a face covering on public transport.
  • It is also strongly recommended that all pupils, regardless of age, should wear a face covering on all buses, trains or taxis for the journey to school where it is appropriate for them to do so and they are able to handle them as directed.
  • Face coverings must be worn in staff rooms and during adult to adult meetings lasting more than 15 minutes and by adults visiting the school site.

Whilst face coverings are not generally recommended for routine use in schools, can I wear a face covering at work if I choose to do so?

Staff and pupils may wish to use face coverings during the routine school day and this is acceptable.

Face coverings are not recommended as being compulsory for routine use in education settings. However, staff and pupils may wish to use them during the routine school day and this is acceptable. Schools should also be aware that some persons (including some children) are exempt from wearing face coverings.

There is advice about how to make your own face covering available on the UK Government website. It is important when choosing what face covering to wear that you exercise care so as not to embarrass or intimidate co-workers or disrupt a harmonious working environment.

Please be mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.  Some useful information is available here

Further information on the use of face coverings, including guidance on how to wear a face covering and how to maintain and dispose of face coverings, is available here.

Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they’re not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.

Is my employer required to carry out a risk assessment before I return to work?

Principals should consider the best ways to ensure key work progresses, whilst adhering to the PHA and DE guidelines on social distancing at work and should have completed a premises risk assessment. Principals can access relevant generic risk assessment documents on the C2K platform. On return to work, all staff must strictly adhere to all workplace guidance and procedures. Procedures may include, one way systems, social distancing signage, hand washing regime, reorganised work environment, personal work environment hygiene regime etc.

 

Depending on personal circumstances, staff may require individual risk assessments which will be completed by managers in consultation with the individual staff member.

 

The DE document ‘Supporting Staff to Return to Work’ provides comprehensive guidance on the categories of employee and can be accessed here.

Once completed, these documents should be treated as highly confidential as they contain personal information.

Which pupils returning to school will require individual risk assessments?

The school is required to complete a risk assessment for pupils who were previously shielding and in receipt of a shielding letter (clinically extremely vulnerable people). Shielding restrictions were paused from the 1 August 2020 and pupils should follow the guidance of their hospital consultant or General Practitioner (GP) if in doubt.


Pupils who are living with someone who was previously shielding and in receipt of a shielding letter (clinically extremely vulnerable), should have an individual risk assessment conducted before the start of the new school term

 

Risk assessments are required only for pupils who are either clinically extremely vulnerable or are living with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

 

Generic Risk Assessments for pupils who are clinically extremely vulnerable can be obtained from the schools SDS link officer.

How will the school achieve the social distancing requirements?

The stringent application of social distancing requirements between pupils is now relaxed. Public Health guidance with respect to social distancing of 2 metres (2m) will remain in place between adults and as far as possible between adults and pupils. The school will have a number of strategies to ensure as much as possible that the social distancing requirement are met. Schools should endeavour strenuously to implement as much social distancing as is practical where physical capacity and curriculum delivery permit. Protective bubbles will be used as a key mitigating action where possible.

Do convector heaters spread COVID-19?

The COVID-19 virus thrives in cold, damp conditions. Warm, dry air is not conducive to the survival of the virus. Good ventilation needs to be maintained in all circumstances.

What will happen in school if someone becomes symptomatic?

If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature/fever or anosmia (a loss or a change in your normal sense of smell, which can also affect your sense of taste) in an educational setting, they and any members of their household within that school setting must be sent home and advised to follow the PHA guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection. Schools should keep a full record of such actions and request a parent / carer / guardian record their acknowledgement of this action.  Further advice can be accessed here.                                                                     

When a pupil/member of staff displays symptoms of COVID-19 whilst in school, and is then removed from the classroom to await collection or go home...

...Should the remaining pupils/staff be removed from this classroom and close the room until an enhanced clean takes place or upon confirmation of a negative result of COVID-19?

 

If a pupil/ member of staff presents with COVID -19, they should go home ASAP and arrange for testing.  At this stage, cleaning the affected area with available cleaning products, followed by disinfection after someone with symptoms has left will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

 

If the test is positive, the pupil/staff will be contacted by the PHA Contact Tracing Team to identify the person’s close contacts and offer them support and guidance on self-isolation and the need to get tested if applicable. If there are 2 persons or more that have a positive test for COVID-19 with in a 14 day period, the PHA’s Public Health Team will contact the School to advise about additional measures.

 

Further PHA advice on TEST and TRACING can be accessed here

If a pupil/staff has received a negative COVID-19 result, can they return to school?

If an individual has been symptomatic or has been identified as a close contact they must self-isolate for 14 days even if they received a negative test during this time.

If an individual has not been identified as a close contact, and has not been symptomatic, and has had a negative test result, it is important to still apply caution. If everyone with symptoms who was tested in their household receive a negative result, the member of staff can return to work providing they are well enough and have not had a fever for 48 hours.

What action should I take if I am notified of a negative Covid-19 test?

If a pupil or member of staff displays only a cough and is in receipt of a negative Covid-19 test then they can return to their school or place of work providing they are otherwise fit and well.

If however, the pupil or member of staff with a negative result has a fever,  they should exercise caution and only return to school or their workplace when they are fever free for 48 hours.  For further information please consult the PHA website.

 

Is the use of a Nebuliser considered an AGP?

Nebulisation is not considered an AGP and a separate AGP room is not required, the child could

be nebulised in a room or private area. Those involved in carrying out the procedure need to wear 

PPE- mask, gloves, plastic apron if helping a child to remove the mask.


DE documentNORTHERN IRELAND RE-OPENING SCHOOLS GUIDANCE NEW SCHOOL DAY-revised’ can be accessed here

Do pupils with cold symptoms such as a runny nose need to self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19?

A Pupil that has other cold symptoms such as a runny nose, is not required to be tested, does not need to self-isolate and can attend school if well enough.

Advice from the PHA recommends that a pupil only needs tested if they have a temperature, new cough, loss of taste and smell. Parents to be advised that a symptomatic pupil must stay at home and arrange for a test.

Can children use sand in educational settings?

Frequent hand-washing and enhanced cleaning will help to reduce the risk of infection transmission. Children should wash their hands before engaging in sand play and after playing with sand.

Sand play has a high play value and therefore it may be used if:

  • The pit or tray containing the sand is cleaned between uses
  • Dry sand is used rather than wet sand
  • There are individual trays for children OR the sand is changed  on a daily basis

Can water play be used in educational settings?

Water play can be used in educational settings. The water should have soap added to the water before use to enhance cleaning ability and promote infection control.

Can play dough be used in childcare settings?

Stringent hand-washing procedures and enhanced cleaning reduces risk. Therefore children must wash their hands thoroughly before playing with play dough and afterwards. Children may use play dough although they should have their own individual pots/plastic bags for the play dough, clearly labelled with their name to ensure they use the same dough each time.

Can Covid-19 be passed on after handling envelopes, forms, leaflets, and do such mail items have to be quarantined for a period of time prior to handling?

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has advised that the risk is infinitesimal (low risk), and quarantining of envelopes, forms and leaflets is not required.

Can pupils bring lunch boxes and water bottles into school?

The latest guidance from the PHA is that a child may bring their lunch to school in a reusable, washable container and the parent/guardian should take care to make sure this is washed thoroughly every day after school. Likewise, a reusable bottle filled with water at home may be used, and again the parent/guardian should take care to make sure this is washed thoroughly every day after school. If water bottles are to be filled in schools then appropriate hand hygiene should be adhered to prior to filling the water bottle and the School should arrange frequent cleaning of the water taps / machines surfaces to allow children to refill bottles . 

HR FAQs

Guidance on Supporting Staff to Return to School

How do I deal with a situation where a member of staff who does not wish to return to work due to living with a vulnerable person?

If a member of staff is living with someone who is considered clinically vulnerable, the current Public Health Agency (PHA) advice does not require them to self-isolate therefore they are able to attend work.   

It may be the case where a member of staff living with a vulnerable person, feels they cannot return to work in any capacity at present despite the assurances and appropriate measures being put in place by the school. In this case the staff member and Principal/line manager should consider options which may include reduced hours/days, annual leave (if the contract of employment allows for this) or unpaid leave as appropriate.

If however, despite all of the above arrangements and assurances being put in place, the member of staff still does not come to work or avail of the options available then HR advice should be sought from the employing Authority.

Can you please explain what is meant by ‘Clinically Vulnerable’ and ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’?

Clinically Vulnerable individuals are considered to be at higher risk of severe illness (for example, people with some pre-existing conditions as set out in the staying at home and away from others (social distancing) guidance) and have been advised to take extra care in observing social distancing and should work from home where possible. Principals/line managers should endeavour to support this, where possible, for example by asking staff to support remote education, carry out lesson planning or other roles which can be done from home.

‘Clinically Vulnerable’ includes

  • Staff with specific underlying conditions
  • People over the age of 70 and
  • those who are pregnant

Click here for a more complete breakdown and further information.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable is a category of individual who have been strongly advised not to work outside the home and should follow PHA advice on shielding. Shielding is a measure to protect clinically extremely vulnerable people by minimising interaction with others. People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions but as of the 5 June can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing.

With effect from 1 August 2020 “Shielding” will be paused and full details will be provided by PHA and this guidance will be further updated at that time. 

Current restrictions are in place with the aim of reducing social contact with those outside of the household.  This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 from coming into contact with the virus.  Staff who fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable category will have received a letter from the NHS/GP and should continue to follow Government advice. The Government is regularly monitoring its position on clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

Click here for a complete breakdown and further information.

You should note that Government guidance published on the 11 May 2020 called for particular attention to be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals. Such staff should have an individual risk assessment conducted before the most appropriate course of action is determined. Click here for Individual Risk Assessment Appendix A1.

What is the PHA advice on protecting vulnerable or extremely vulnerable staff on designated home to school transport when 1 metre plus mitigations cannot be guaranteed and in many cases is unrealistic?

Shielding for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people was paused on the 01 August 2020 and the precautions that this category adhered to have now been eased. In addition there is PHA approved evidence that states that children have lower rates of infection than adults.


EA transport have taken PHA advice on this matter and have put in place a number of mitigations under which vulnerable staff in this scenario can work at less than 1m if required.

Where staff have to work less than 1 metre, vehicles transporting learners should be well ventilated and staff should wear face covering. Additional hand hygiene is highly recommended as well as enhanced effort not to touch ones face.

All COVID-19 vulnerable staff require an individual risk assessment to ensure their unique circumstances are considered.

What is the PHA advice on protecting vulnerable or extremely vulnerable classroom assistants providing 1-1 SEN support when 1 metre plus mitigations is unrealistic?

Shielding for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people was paused on the 01 August 2020 and the precautions that this category adhered to have now been eased. In addition there is PHA approved evidence that states that children have lower rates of infection than adults.


EA have taken PHA advice on this matter and have put in place a number of mitigations under which vulnerable staff in this scenario can work at less than 1m if required.

There are a number of defined circumstances in which vulnerable staff will potentially have to work within 1 metre from a learner. These include when;

  • Providing Intimate Care
  • Providing Medication / Enteral Feedings
  • If a Child has COVID-19 symptoms and needs supervision until collected by a parent/carer


In each of the above situations PPE (masks, plastic apron and gloves, visor) should be used by all staff involved.

Relevant staff can learn how to don and doff PPE by watching the following guidance videos

Click here to view


Finally, additional hand hygiene is highly recommended as well as enhanced effort not to touch ones face.


All COVID-19 vulnerable staff require an individual risk assessment to ensure their unique circumstances are considered.

I have a pregnant teacher. Can I ask her to continue to work?

Pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution however, there is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19. 

Clinically vulnerable individuals have been advised to take extra care in observing social distancing and should work from home where possible. Principals/line managers should endeavour to support this, where possible, for example by asking staff to support remote education, carry out lesson planning or other roles which can be done from home.

If pregnant women cannot work from home they should take extra care in the work place observing social distancing, staying 2 metres away from others wherever possible, although the individual may choose to take on a role that does not allow for this distance if they prefer to do so. If they have to spend time within 2 metres1 of other people, Principals/line managers should undertake a risk assessment with the individual to assess and control measures to reduce risk. They should, if necessary, be offered the safest available onsite roles.

Pregnancy and Risk

Pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution. This is because pregnant women can sometimes be more at risk from viruses like flu. At present it is not clear if this happens with COVID-19 but because it is a new virus, it is safer to include pregnant women in the moderate-risk group.

[1]    Based on current PHA Guidance.

The Stormont Executive has agreed to reduce social distancing in Northern Ireland from 2 metres to 1 metre with restrictions from 29 June. The Stormont Executive agreed that people should keep 2 metres distance where possible, but from 29 June can come within no less than 1 metre where appropriate mitigations can be made.

What is the PHA advice on protecting pregnant women, at various trimesters, in the school environment where social distancing at 1m plus mitigations cannot be guaranteed?

Up to 28 Weeks

If a pregnant woman is under 28 weeks, a risk assessment should be undertaken and precautions such as PPE put in place to minimise risk in the work environment.


Post 28 Weeks

If a pregnant woman is over 28 weeks, a risk assessment should be undertaken and precautions such as PPE put in place to minimise risk in the work environment. If the pregnant woman has a heart or lung condition, it is advised that they should not have direct contact with service users/ children. They could undertake other duties e.g. administrative work.


Individual considerations when carrying out a risk assessment linked to pregnancy

 

The medical history and current health status of the individual worker needs to be considered. The Principal/ Manager may consider an Occupational Health referral for an individual if they still remain concerned.

 

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Guidance is designed primarily for Health Workers who would have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general population. The Chief Medical Officers of the 4 Nations have noted that ONS identifies teaching as a lower risk profession.

 

To view the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Guidance for COVID–19 click here

If teachers are expected to start work on 17 August does this mean they will have to work more days/hours in the year?

​​​​​​A teacher will not be directed to work on more than 195 days or 1265 hours in the academic year as a direct consequence of the change to the restart date.

This was confirmed in a joint letter of agreement issued by TNC on 23 June 2020 and will remain extant for the period of the academic year 20/21.

This is applicable to all teachers in grant-aided schools in Northern Ireland.

If non-teaching staff who are employed on a term time contract of employment commence work prior to September 2020 will they receive payment?

Yes non-teaching staff will be paid for all hours work at their contractual rate of pay.

Some of my teachers are not available to start on 17 August as they will be away on holiday. Can I insist that they come in or take unpaid leave?

Teachers, Principals and Vice-Principals who have pre-booked holidays or have other commitments that were arranged prior to 18 June 2020, (the official notification of a change in the start date for the academic year 20/21) shall be allowed to honour those commitments without detriment.

Staff have been advised to notify their holiday arrangements to their Principal or line manager by 30 June 2020, in order to inform workforce planning.

A teacher has advised me they will not be available to start on 17 August due to holiday quarantine arrangements. Can I insist that they come to work in the school?

No quarantine arrangements are a legal requirement and staff cannot attend the workplace during the quarantine period.

Teachers, Principals and Vice-Principals who have pre-booked holidays arranged prior to the announcement of quarantine arrangements and who may be required to isolate after travelling abroad, will be required to work from home during any isolation period.

Staff likely to be affected by quarantine arrangements should ensure that they notify their Principal or line manager by 30 June 2020.

It is appreciated that the situation concerning travelling outside the Common Travel Area is uncertain at this time and official advice may change. Teachers, Principals and Vice-Principals should ensure they follow Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice regarding foreign travel.

Some of my Classroom Assistants have advised me they will not be available to start on 17 August due to holiday quarantine arrangements. Can I insist that they come to work in the school?

No. Individuals and employers must adhere to quarantine guidelines which are valid at the time.  In line with the NJC guidelines however, the school leader / manager must first consider whether working from home is practical and feasible.  Should this not be the case, the manager should consider whether the employee can be redeployed during the quarantine period to work which can be completed at home.  Where this is not possible, managers can require staff who are quarantining and unable to work at home to:

  • take additional paid annual leave (from their usual leave allowance).
  • take unpaid annual leave.
  • take special leave (paid/unpaid).
  • make up the 14 days’ leave over a period of time, so they do not incur a drop in pay

These arrangements should be clear, understood and agreed by both parties before the employee embarks on leave that will require quarantine.

Staff should continue to reference government guidance and be aware that some guidance may change over the course of the summer period.

I have completed a restart plan for my school but in order to comply with social distancing I will need additional staff to cover additional supervision requirements. How can I get additional staff and also will any additional finances made available to c

It is understandable that in some cases additional staff may be required in order for schools to meet the requirements for restarting in August.  There is a number of options available to School Leaders e.g. offer temporary additional hours to current staff or employ additional staff on a temporary basis.  NISTR can be utilised for the engagement of substitute teachers if required.

DE recognises the financial impact the current COVID-19 pandemic is having on the education sector, and will continue, in conjunction with the Education Authority, to assess the financial impact of COVID-19 responses on grant aided schools. Once the detailed plans are established for the re-opening of schools, the resulting funding requirements will be further assessed.

If a staff member is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 as Principal what advice should I give to them regarding testing?

Staff who exhibit any symptoms associated with COVID-19 should not attend school.  The N.I. Executive has rolled out a Test and Trace and Protect strategy designed to control the spread of COVID-19 and symptomatic staff are expected to follow the advice and obtain a test for COVID-19.

Testing is available for school staff or a member of their household (whoever is displaying the symptoms) - https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/test-type

I have staff with caring responsibilities and they may difficulty returning to school at the end of August. What options are available to assist?

As Principal you should establish what the caring responsibilities entail and how they impact on the staff members working pattern.

Caring responsibilities may include; the care of children in the household, the care of vulnerable adults or children in the household, the need to support vulnerable members of the family outside of the household with essentials for example, food and medicine deliveries.

The Northern Ireland Executive announced the publication of the Childcare Recovery Plan on 18 June. The Childcare Recovery Plan aims to restore the childcare sector to pre-COVID-19 capacity levels as quickly and safely as possible. The aim of the plan is to ensure more parents can access childcare. School re-opening plans and the availability of childcare is inextricably linked, and work is ongoing to build the capacity of the childcare sector as quickly as possible.

Staff should seek to investigate and source all childcare options available to them in order that they can attend school when it restarts. In an emergency situation staff can apply for emergency carer leave should childcare arrangements breakdown. 

It is understood that there may be some staff who still find it difficult to return to school in their usual capacity due to caring responsibilities. In such circumstances they are expected to communicate effectively and regularly with their Principal/line manager about any concerns. If a member of staff is wishing to consider flexible working and/or a corresponding reduction in hours staff should make a formal request in accordance with the relevant HR policies.

A member of staff has claimed that they have a medical condition which prevents them from returning to school. Am I entitled to request information on what the medical condition is?

The Principal/line manager and employing Authority are entitled to request and be provided with evidence to confirm medical conditions and inform, where necessary, risk assessments.

The Guidance on Supporting Staff to Return to School refers to individual risk assessments. Where can I get these risk assessments?

There are 4 individual risk assessment templates and guidance on how to complete these on the DE web site - https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/guidance-supporting-staff-return-schools

Why is an individual risk assessment required?

By carrying out an individual risk assessment the Principal can consider the requirements of the vulnerable member of staff and decide what control measures can be put in place to minimise the risk to the member of staff. The Principal should discuss with the member of staff the details in the risk assessment.

It is unlikely that generic assessments will be totally appropriate for each individual employee, there may be different circumstances pertinent to each case. They should therefore be modified for each individual making that assessment specific to their medical vulnerability and specific area of work.

The information on an individual risk assessment should be regarding as highly confidential and appropriate security/safeguards should be in place to ensure confidentiality.

Procurement FAQs

What items are available for me to buy?

All required general cleaning materials are available from the EA contracted suppliers. The following specific items are available; hand sanitisers, floor disinfectant products e.g. Shield disinfectant, Milton disinfectant, blue rolls/hand drying paper towels, soaps, aprons, gloves, tissues, cleaning wipes.  All orders will be monitored closely to ensure there is no bulk buying and ensure continuity of supply for other schools and EA.  Schools should only order items deemed necessary as per Health and Safety guidance and the ‘New School Day’ guidance document.  This is important as there is a worldwide shortage on certain PPE and cleaning consumables and bulk buying may result in schools and EA having supply difficulties.

I need to buy PPE when working with children whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE, due to their intimate care needs or giving medication/first aid, where can I get this?

Masks, gloves, aprons & visors are available via iProc, however the use of these should be in line with health and safety guidance and the ‘New School Day’ guidance document. It is important that schools purchase only what is required in the appropriate circumstances to ensure availability of supply for special schools and those children requiring specific intimate care.

With regards to AGPs specific masks are required ie FFP3 Masks.  These are not available from the iProc shop.  A free text requisition should be sent to the Operations Team procurement@eani.org.uk

 

Special Schools – what items are available for me to buy?

Masks, visors, aprons & gloves will be available to order via iProc.  The use of these should be in line with Health and Safety guidance and ‘New School Day’ guidance document.  The following specific items are also available; hand sanitisers, floor disinfectant products e.g. Shield disinfectant, Milton disinfectant, blue rolls/hand drying paper towels, soaps, aprons, gloves, tissues, cleaning wipes. Other general cleaning materials are available from the EA contracted suppliers.  With regards to enhanced PPE, these orders should be placed via an iProc requisition.

How do I know what suppliers to order Covid-19 PPE/Cleaning Consumables from?

Suppliers and products are available to shop from the iProc store using EA’s contracted suppliers.  Orders must be placed using the EA’s contracted suppliers.  If orders are not placed using EA’s contracted suppliers this will cause delays in processing your orders.

The EA Procure site also provides details of all contracts and suppliers that are available for schools to use.

It is important that orders are raised through the shop on iProc using EA’s contracted suppliers where applicable.  If supplies are not ordered in this manner this will cause delays in processing your order.

It is important to order all PPE supplies from our list of contractors as all PPE items supplied by EA will have relevant Health and Safety certificates and/or data sheets which have been approved and checked by the Education Authority.

I do not have access to EA Procure and/or Iproc to review the list of suppliers. What should I do?

Please contact EAProcure@eani.org.uk to register and receive log in details for EA Procure.

Suppliers’ commercial pricing is confidential and should only be used for the purpose of ordering.

If you are a nursery school and wish to avail of EA’s contracted suppliers you will be provided with details of the suppliers for you to directly place your orders.  EA will advise these suppliers that invoices should be sent directly to the nursery for payment.  PPE and cleaning consumables should be used in line with the Health and Safety and the ‘New School Day’ guidance documents.

VG/GMI schools can make their own purchasing arrangements ensuring adherence to Procurement Guidance Notes (PGN’s) or get details of the contracts from EA procure and order directly from EA contractors.

Should I raise separate orders for PPE and cleaning consumables?

Yes.  Schools are encouraged to place separate orders for all PPE and cleaning consumables as detailed in this FAQs document.  This will enable EA to understand volume requirements and negotiate better deals with suppliers.

What should I advise suppliers regarding deliveries?

It is important that you advise suppliers of access restrictions, including; delivery times, contact details (staff names and telephone numbers).  This will ensure that you can actively manage individuals coming onto your premises.  Adding a note on the requisition in the ‘note to supplier’ header field will facilitate this and reduce processing times for orders if provided on the initial requisition.

I urgently need a supply of goods, should I bulk order?

Given the unprecedented situation with Covid-19, suppliers and supply chains are being put under considerable pressure to obtain raw materials/products and produce goods. To ensure there are sufficient supplies for other schools you must not bulk buy and order the amount required for the needs of your school in the immediate future.  Procurement Services will be working closely with EA contractors to monitor purchasing trends and where bulk buying is identified, Procurement Services will contact the relevant schools and may advise contractors to reduce delivery quantities.

What should I do if a supplier can only part deliver an order due to shortages of goods?

If you do not urgently need the items that are outstanding, ascertain with the supplier when the outstanding items can be delivered and determine if this is suitable.  If the supplier cannot supply the items by your required timeframe, you may source from another contracted supplier (where available) and cancel the outstanding items.  Where there is no other contracted supplier contact procurement services who will provide further advice.

When ordering Cleaning Materials/PPE on iProc how do I enter the COVID-19 function code?

Within iProcurement once you have added all the items of PPE required to your Shopping Cart, which is “D” Delegated Expenditure, click on ‘View Cart and Checkout’.  To enter a specific function code e.g. for COVID-19, click in the ‘Function Code’ field and key in the function code 82093 to be used for this requisition of approved PPE.  If there is no function code to be used, enter 00000.  This field is mandatory.

Full steps on how to enter a function code in iProcurement are outlined on pages 12 – 14, section 2.1.6 to 2.1.9 of the EA iProcurement Requisitioner User Guide.  The guide is available on;

 

EA Sharepoint https://sharepoint.eani.org.uk/pp/iFS/Pages/default.aspx

EANI Website https://www.eani.org.uk/iprocurement-information-guides

 

What should I do if Suppliers cold call offering Covid19 products and Supplies?

Schools are recommended to only purchase the items that are available from EA contracted suppliers.  Suppliers will cold call schools offering their products and services and use sales techniques to get orders.  Suppliers have sales targets to meet and cold calling is a method of achieving these sale targets.  If suppliers contact you, you should advise them to contact EA Procurement Services.

Where can I get directional and COVID-19 related signage for my school?

The DE Reopening of Schools Guidance – New School Day provides schools with direction on the safe return to school.  In light of the change of arrangements within schools, there is a need to communicate this message to pupils, staff and visitors.   Schools may wish to consider the use of signage and physical markings throughout their premises to emphasize these new arrangements.

Schools should take into consideration areas that may require additional signage, the age and stage of learning of their pupils when choosing the appropriate signage. 

The EA has several contractors on iProc who can provide this signage.

What type of Signage is available for me?

A number of PHA and NI Executive posters are available to download for free.  These are available on the EA Education Restart webpage, under Resources.

In addition the EA have identified a range of signage that meets the needs of schools in compliance with PHA Guidance and Social Distancing guidance.  The EA have made these available for download from the EA Website.

There are also suppliers for Signage specific to the school setting available to purchase through the EA’s iProcurement (iProc) Ordering system.  This includes the following:

  • Free Standing Signage
  • Posters
  • Strut Cards
  • Roller Banners/PVC Banners
  • Hanging Boards
  • Indoor Floor Graphics
  • Pavement Signs
  • Window Graphics
  • Stickers/Labels

This signage can be provided in alternative languages.

Should I raise orders for educational/school trips/ swimming lessons etc.?

No. All trips should be cancelled until further guidance is available. No new requisitions or orders should be raised.  Any outstanding orders for trips that did not happen should be cancelled by emailing procurement@eani.org.uk.

Should I book and raise orders for conference/room facilities?

The EA's advice is that no order for conference/room facilities should be raised.

Should I raise orders/requisitions for travel?

The EA's advice is that no order for conference/room facilities should be raised.

How can I can support businesses in this challenging climate?

By goods receipting orders on iProc as soon as deliveries have been received and checked.  This will ensure that payments are facilitated as quickly as possible.  Many suppliers may be experiencing cash flow issues during this time and this will help significantly.

Where can I find out about suppliers who may not be open or who are providing a reduced service?

Advice on suppliers who have provided Procurement Services with details of their closures, reduced service delivery or special instructions due to COVID-19 can be found on; the ‘EA procure site, Procurement news’ section.

If I cannot get the supplies or services that I require who should I contact?

You can email procurement queries to any of the email addresses listed here including issues regarding not being able to order or non- delivery of supplies/services.  Please email these contact points and they will provide advice and guidance;

If I have general procurement queries not related to COVID-19 who should I contact?

Detailed below are the email addresses for procurement queries including issues regarding not being able to order or non- delivery of supplies/services. Please email these contact points and they will provide advice and guidance;

 

Procurement Email Contacts

If you have a Procurement query relating to Business Services and Products, this should be directed to business.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Catering, this should be directed to catering.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Minor Works Construction, this should be directed to minorworks.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Major Works Construction, this should be directed to majorworks.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Educational Resources, this should be directed to educationresource.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Facilities Management and Maintenance, this should be directed to facilities.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Furniture and Equipment, this should be directed to equipment.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Information Communication Technology, this should be directed to ICT.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have a Procurement query relating to Transport, this should be directed to transport.procure@eani.org.uk

If you have any queries relating to requisitions and orders on iProc, this should be directed to procurement@eani.org.uk.

For iProc System Queries

If you have any system queries relating to requisitions and orders on iProc, this should be directed to Ifs.queries@eani.org.uk for the attention of Sarah Jackson/Helen Coates.

For Finance Queries

If you have any queries relating to Finance, this should be directed to Angela.Evans@eani.org.uk.

For Health & Safety Queries

If you have a Health and Safety query relating to the appropriate selection of PPE these can be directed to Covid-19@eani.org.uk.  Please mark your query for the attention of Health and Safety.  Alternatively you may wish to contact your individual health and safety office, telephone numbers are available from the EA website.

Transport FAQs

HOME TO SCHOOL TRANSPORT
FOR ALL SCHOOLS DURING COVID-19

DATE: 16 OCTOBER 2020 (UPDATED)

Is social distancing required on school transport?

Social distancing requirements depend on the type of transport:

  1. ‘Dedicated’ school transport services e.g. EA yellow bus, a bus/taxi hired by the EA, or a Translink ‘School’ service. Under current DE guidance strict social distancing is not required and these vehicles can operate at normal capacity.
  2. ‘Public’ transport services e.g. Translink public bus and rail services.  These remain subject to government (DfI) guidance on social distancing. 

Current DE guidance makes no distinction between mainstream and special transport in respect of social distancing.

Will pupils travel in their bubbles?

As per the DE guidance, there may be mixing of wider groups on home to school transport.

Are pupils required to wear face coverings required on school transport?

All pupils regardless of age are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering on all school transport.  They are mandatory for those aged 13 and over on public transport (unless you have a medical exemption). 

Schools have been provided with a pack of face masks for their pupils who receive home to school transport assistance and are asked to promote the use of face coverings on all school transport. 

Are there ‘extra’ bus or taxi services operating during Covid-19?

No.  As strict social distancing is not required on dedicated transport e.g. EA buses, private taxis and buses, these vehicles are expected to operate at their normal capacity and there are not currently resources for additional services.

Translink has received some investment to ensure there is sufficient network capacity for pupils as social distancing is still required on their vehicles.  They are converting some scheduled, public services to dedicated school services and are also re-directing some vehicles to supplement the number of buses on existing routes. 

Will escorts still travel with pupils?

Escorts will still travel with pupils if it is required. While they will try to give pupils as much distance as possible their role will mean they will be in close contact. To protect them and pupils they will be wearing PPE which could include a mask and face shield. 

Are drivers/escorts required to wear face coverings on school transport?

The EA has provided all its drivers and escorts with face coverings and other PPE, though there will continue to be exemptions for certain individuals.  Although it is still encouraged, it is not required if a screen is installed. 

Similar guidance and assistance has been provided to private bus and taxi operators, however this remains the responsibility of the Operator to ensure their drivers and escorts are supplied with and use appropriate PPE.

Can transport accommodate a change to a school’s opening or closing time?

We recognise that DE guidance has suggested schools consider staggered opening and closing times and we are working with schools to adjust services wherever possible.  However it isn’t always be possible as buses may provide pick up and drop offs for children attending multiple schools or continue onto other duties. It would also be important that we satisfy ourselves that this is possible across all the transport providers with services to your school.

If you wish to alter your times and need transport to change transport arrangements you must first speak to your Transport Officer.  If we are unable to accommodate the requested change and you proceed regardless, schools must make parents aware of the impact on school transport.

What cleaning arrangements are in place on school transport?

EA buses and common touch points are cleaned regularly.

Private Operators have also been issued with instructions on cleaning regimes and Translink has also implemented an enhanced cleaning regime. 

Are there specific arrangements for pupils who are immunosuppressed?

There are a very small number of children who, due to being immunosuppressed, may require alternative transport arrangements during Covid-19.

In these circumstances information would be required from a paediatrician and parents should be advised to contact their local transport office.

What to do if your school closes and you do not require school transport?

If for any reason school transport for the whole school is not required on any given day the Transport Service must be notified by 4pm at the latest the working day prior. 

It is critical that schools ensure parents are made aware that they should not take transport to school as there is a risk that some services will continue to operate and that children could board vehicles to school.  School transport operators are not in a position to return pupils home.

Please provide Transport with a minimum of 24hours notice that schools intend to re-open. If re-opening on a Monday, notice is required by 9am the Friday before (or the prior working following a holiday period).

What happens if a pupil (who uses school transport), driver or escort has symptoms of Covid-19, has been advised to self-isolate, or has a confirmed diagnosis?

Anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19, has been advised to self-isolate or has a confirmed diagnosis must not use school transport. 

If a child is required to go home because they are displaying symptoms, or the school has assessed that they should self-isolate, school transport must not be used for their return journey.  Their parent/carer should be contacted to make suitable arrangements. 

If a driver/escort is required to isolate this may result in a disruption to services. If bus services are disrupted we will do our best to advise you of this and may seek your support to share information with parents.

Do schools need to sign Private Operators’ (TX1) claim forms?

Prior to Covid-19 schools were asked to ‘sign’ and confirm private operators’ TX1 forms confirming pupil attendance.  Schools are not required to complete this check for the period August-October 2020 (to be kept under review).

The EA may however require your support to verify this information retrospectively. 

How can schools help school transport?

Schools can assist school transport by:

  • Reinforcing the message that pupils MUST NOT travel if they are experiencing symptoms, have a confirmed diagnosis or have been advised to isolate.
  • Ensuring EA transport staff have access to toilet and handwashing facilities and to dispose of waste from their vehicles. 
  • Supporting transport staff to complete their vehicle cleaning at the end of each day. Your drivers may need to access water and/or store cleaning products.
  • Promoting the use of face coverings on all school transport
  • Promoting the message that school transport should only be used where there is no alternative available.
  • Assisting communication with parents if there is disruption to bus services. 
  • Managing the arrival/departure of pupils.

Data Protection FAQs

Can my school tell staff, parents and pupils that a pupil or staff member may have potentially contracted COVID-19?

You have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of pupils and staff, as well as a duty of care and you can therefore provide staff, parents and pupils with such information as is necessary to ensure the health and safety of other pupils and staff in your school. Data protection doesn’t prevent you doing this but you shouldn’t provide more information than is necessary in this respect. You shouldn’t disclose the identity of any individuals or information on specific circumstances relating to individual staff or pupils.

Can my school collect health data in relation to COVID-19 about pupils or staff members?

You have an obligation to protect the health and safety of your pupils and staff, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to gather lots of information about them. It is however reasonable to ask people to tell you if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and to use people’s health data to enable you to adhere to advice and guidance published by the Department of Education (DE) and the Public Health Agency (PHA) (e.g. in relation to pupils and staff who exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19, or who are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable). Don’t collect more health data than you need and ensure that any information collected is treated with the appropriate safeguards to ensure confidentiality.

Can my school share pupil and staff health information with public health authorities for public health purposes?

If it is necessary for your school to share personal information (including health information) with public health authorities about specific individuals for public health purposes then data protection law won’t stop you from doing so. If it is necessary for schools to provide such information for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, the consent of the data subject will not be required. You must of course ensure that such information is managed and shared in a secure manner.

 

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has confirmed that as contact tracing is vitally important to slow the spread of COVID19 and data sharing for this purpose is in the public interest for public health reasons, schools do not require the consent of parents or pupils to share a pupil’s personal information with the PHA COVID19 School Team for this purpose. Your school should however still make parents and pupils aware that you are required to share pupil’s personal information with the PHA COVID19 School Team for this purpose. The PHA guidance to schools in this respect is available on the PHA website and the Covid-19 C2K page.

 

If your school is in any doubt about whether or not it must obtain the consent of an individual before it can share their personal information with a public health authority for any other purpose, you should ask the public health authority requesting the information to confirm the position in this respect.

What steps should my school follow to ensure that any processing of people’s health data during the pandemic complies with data protection law?

  1. Only collect and use what’s necessary

To help you decide if collecting and using people’s health data is necessary to keep your pupils and staff safe, you should ask yourself a few questions:

How will collecting extra personal information help keep your school safe?

Do you really need the information?

Could you achieve the same result without collecting personal information?

If you can show that your approach is reasonable, fair and proportionate to the circumstances, then it is unlikely to raise data protection concerns. For example, it may be necessary for you to collect and use people’s health data to enable you to adhere to advice and guidance published by the Department of Education (DE) or the Public Health Agency (PHA) (e.g. in relation to pupils and staff who exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19, or who are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable).

  1. Keep it to a minimum

When collecting personal information, including COVID-19 symptoms or information relating to pupils or staff who are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable, your school should collect only the information needed to implement their measures appropriately and effectively (e.g. the information needed to enable your school to adhere to advice and guidance published by DE or the PHA). Don’t collect personal data that you don’t need. Some information may only needs to be held momentarily and, if that is the case, there is no need to create a permanent record.

  1. Be clear, open and honest with pupils and staff about their data

Some people may be affected by some of the measures you intend to implement (e.g. pupils and staff who exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19, or are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable). You must be mindful of this, and make sure you tell pupils and staff how and why you wish to use their personal information, including what the implications for them will be.

  1. Treat people fairly

If you’re making decisions about your pupils or staff based on the health information you collect (e.g. implementing measures in relation to pupils and staff who exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19, or are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable), you must make sure your approach is fair. Think carefully about any detriment they might suffer as a result of your policy, and make sure your approach doesn’t cause any kind of discrimination.

If you can show that your approach is reasonable, fair and proportionate to the circumstances (e.g. you are adhering to advice and guidance published by DE or the PHA), then it is unlikely to raise data protection concerns.

  1. Keep people’s information secure

Any personal data you hold must be kept securely and only held for as long as is necessary.

All personal information relating to pupils or staff processed by your school, especially special category data (e.g. health data or information about ethnicity) must be kept securely and only held for as long as is necessary. You must ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of such personal information.

You must ensure that the personal information can only be accessed, altered, disclosed or deleted by those authorized to do so.

When considering the physical security of the personal information processed by your school, you should consider factors such as:

  • The quality of doors and locks, locked storage cabinets and the protection of your premises by such means as alarms, security lighting or CCTV;
  • How you control access to your premises (and personal information held within your premises), and how visitors are supervised;
  • How you dispose of any paper and electronic waste; and
  • How you keep IT equipment, particularly mobile devices, secure.

When considering cybersecurity in relation to the personal information processed by your school electronically, you should look at factors such as:

  • system security – the security of your network and information systems, including those which process personal data; and
  • data security – the security of the data you hold within your systems, e.g. ensuring appropriate access controls are in place and that data is held securely;
  1. Pupils and staff must be able to exercise their information rights

As with any data collection, make sure you tell pupils and staff about their rights in relation to their personal information, such as the right to access their personal information or to have any factual inaccuracy in their personal information rectified. Pupils and staff must have the option to exercise those rights if they wish to do so, and to discuss any concerns they may have with you.

How can my school show that our approach to processing during the pandemic is compliant with data protection law?

To show that your processing of data is compliant, you will need to comply with the accountability principle. It makes your school, as data controller, responsible for complying with the GDPR and says that you must be able to demonstrate your compliance when processing personal data. One way of demonstrating accountability is by carrying out a data protection impact assessment (DPIA).

If your school is going to process health information, then you should conduct a DPIA focusing on the new areas of risk. This DPIA should set out:

  • the activity being proposed;
  • the data protection risks;
  • whether the proposed activity is necessary and proportionate;
  • the mitigating actions that can be put in place to counter the risks; and
  • a plan or confirmation that mitigation has been effective.

A template DPIA is available on the Information Commissioner’s Office website (https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/2553993/dpia-template.docx) and can be used to ensure that the minimum requirements of a DPIA are met.

During the pandemic, my school is worried that our data protection practices might not meet our usual standard or our response to information rights requests will take longer. Will the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) take regulatory action against

No. The ICO has confirmed that it understands that resources, whether they are finances or people, might be diverted away from usual compliance or information governance work and that it won’t penalise organisations that it knows need to prioritise other areas or adapt their usual approach during this extraordinary period.

The ICO has also confirmed that whilst it can’t extend statutory timescales, it will tell people through its own communications channels that they may experience understandable delays when making information rights requests during the pandemic.

The ICO has also confirmed that it will be taking the same pragmatic approach in relation to any delays in responding to FOI requests during the pandemic.

More of our staff may be homeworking and arrangements will have to be made to facilitate remote learning during the pandemic. What kind of security measures should my school have in place for homeworking and remote learning during this period?

Data protection is not a barrier to increased and different types of homeworking. During the pandemic, staff may work from home more frequently than usual. Data protection law doesn’t prevent that, but you’ll need to consider the same kinds of security measures for homeworking that you’d use in normal circumstances.

Due to the security provided by C2K it is, as always, recommended that staff use C2k email addresses to email any personal information or sensitive documents – the C2K file management system is also recommended for transfers from work to home.

In the event of a decision to close all schools and educational settings on a longer term basis, the priority will be to ensure that teaching and learning continues. Vital aspects of the work of your school can be maintained by logging in to the MySchool portal via www.c2kschools.net and using the following C2k on-line Learning and Teaching Services:

MySchool:

  • C2k Exchange (information portal for Staff only)
  • C2k Newsdesk and Seomra Nuachta (daily news stories and curriculum linked activities plus much more)
  • Fronter (Online learning environment where staff can create their own rooms and a range of ‘Ready-to-Go’ rooms are also available. See further information below.)
  • Office 365 (opt-in service providing online collaboration space and productivity tools)
  • G Suite (opt-in service providing online collaboration space and productivity tools)
  • Email
  • Equella (library of resources)
  • C2k Media Library (online video resources)
  • MyFiles (access to Documents and Shared Resources drives in school);
  • Video Conferencing services: Collaborate Ultra
  • Eclipse and Junior Librarian (links to curriculum related websites)
  • Learning Exchange (service information and guidance for staff and students)

SIMS/FMS (Staff only) via https://remote.c2kschools.net from a C2k Laptop

For more information and guidance on how schools can use C2k services to ensure that teaching and learning continues in the event of schools having to close please refer to ‘Information Sheet EN091 – Extending teaching and learning beyond the school.pdf’ which is available on the C2k Exchange.

For further details on SIMS view Information Sheet EN088 and for FMS view EN128 which are available on the C2k Exchange.

What responsibilities do school staff have when working remotely?

Any member of school staff working remotely is responsible for ensuring that they work securely and protect personal information about pupils (and their families) or school staff from loss or unauthorised access.

What responsibilities do school staff have when working remotely using computers or mobile devices?

You must take care when working on any document or system containing personal information about pupils (and their families) or staff. In particular, you should ensure that you are not in a place where anyone could overlook your screen.

You must not allow non-school staff (including family and friends) to access personal information about pupils and their families.

Working remotely on any document or system containing personal information about pupils (and their families) or staff using a computer or mobile device is a significant information security risk if you are not careful when doing so. If you are working on any document or system containing personal information about pupils (and their families) or staff but move away from your screen for any reason, you should lock it.

Are there likely to be any increased cybersecurity and Coronavirus-related Phishing threats when working remotely?

School staff, parents and pupils should remain vigilant of increased cybersecurity threats, some of which may specifically target remote access arrangements. Unfortunately, cybercriminals will not be curtailing their efforts to access valuable data during the pandemic, and in fact, will likely seek to take advantage of some of the confusion and communication issues that might arise under the circumstances.

School staff, parents and pupils should also be vigilant of phishing emails with malicious links disguised as coronavirus information or updates.

Can school staff take paper files containing personal information out of the school for homeworking and what kind of security measures should we have in place for homeworking with paper files?

The use, transportation or storage of hard copy documents containing personal information is a high information security risk when working remotely. Therefore, where possible, the use of paper documents containing personal information outside of your school should be kept to a minimum.

However, where it is necessary to take paper files out of the school, a log should be kept recording when any paper file is taken out of school. This log must record a file reference or a description of the nature/contents of the file, the member of school staff that has taken the file out of the school, the date it was taken out of the school and the date the file is returned. The staff member that takes the file from the school should sign the log entry when they remove the file from the school and when the file is returned to the school.

Where there is a need to take paper files out of the school, the papers should be securely bound within an appropriate folder – not a loose bundle of papers. Paper files should be carried in an appropriate bag or box so that they are not on display and there is less risk of them being dropped. The staff member taking the papers should go straight home with the papers.

Steps should be taken to store papers securely at home, locking them away either during the day whilst not working on them and at the end of each working day.

When working from home you should ensure that you are not in a place where anyone could overlook the papers you are working on.

If school staff have to rely more on the use video conferencing or telephone calls during the pandemic, is there any advice which we should follow in this respect?

Where you are using Skype, video conferencing or telephone to enable you to work remotely, you should ensure that you cannot be overheard by members of the public, other members of the household or any visitors.

What else should my school do to ensure that it does not breach its data protection obligations during the pandemic?

Whilst the advice issued by the ICO referred to above highlights that it may not be possible for data controllers to meet their usual standards in all respects (e.g. it may not be possible to respond to information requests received within the usual statutory timeframes), schools should adhere to the usual standards of data protection during the COVID-19 pandemic to the extent reasonably possible.

In particular, schools should continue to exercise the usual standard of care when processing personal information relating pupils (and their families) and staff. Any personal information relating to pupils (and their families) or staff should continue to be communicated in a way that ensures that there is no unauthorised access to such information.

As always, schools should take care to ensure that the contact details which they hold for pupils and parents (e.g. home addresses, email addresses and telephone numbers) are accurate and up to date, and that care is taken to ensure that all communications containing personal information are correctly addressed.

Also, when putting arrangements in place to provide parents and pupils with resources and online links to enable children to continue their education in a home setting, schools should be mindful that the personal information of pupils or parents should not be disclosed to other pupils or parents. For example, if textual resources or links to online resources are being emailed to all parents in a particular class or year group, the email should be blind copied to all recipients so that the other recipients’ email addresses are not disclosed.

Can my school use mobile messaging apps (such as WhatsApp) to communicate with parents during the pandemic?

Whilst parents may choose to establish their own private groups on mobile messaging apps (such as WhatsApp) to communicate with each other if they wish, the Authority would advise against schools using such apps for official school communications. Firstly, when such groups are set up every person in that group usually has their phone number, and possibly a profile photograph if they have one, shared with every other person in the group (and usually without giving their consent for their personal data to be shared in this manner). Also, the lack of auditing and editing ability the school would have over such groups would make it difficult for the school to comply with a Subject Access Request or a request for deletion if one were received. There may also be an issue with such groups as to the location of the storage of information within them. In addition to these data protection issues, there is also the risk of unsuitable material (or personal information) being posted to such groups.

What should staff do if a Personal Data Security Incident is confirmed or suspected when working remotely?

All staff must report any loss or suspected loss, or any unauthorised disclosure or suspected unauthorised disclosure, of any personal data relating to pupils (and their families) or school staff immediately to the school principal and the school’s Data Protection Officer (DPO). If your school has appointed EA to be its DPO then the confirmed or suspected personal data breach should be reported to EA’s Information Governance Team by emailing dpo@eani.org.uk followed up immediately by a phone call to the EA’s Information Governance Team on 028 8241 1300.

What should my school do if it receives a subject access request for a teacher’s pupil assessment?

Under GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, the exam scripts exemption means candidates do not have the right to copies of their answers to exam questions. They can however request the information recorded by the person marking the exam. If an individual makes a subject access request for information recorded by the person marking the exam before the results are announced, special rules apply to how long you have to comply with the request.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic many pupils will not be sitting exams this year. Instead, teachers will be conducting and submitting pupil assessments, which will be used to award grades. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has confirmed that the exam scripts exemption will still apply to the information used to award students’ grades in these unusual circumstances.

If an individual makes a request for access to pupil assessment information before the official results are announced, the special rules under the exam scripts exemption referred to above allow for longer response times. The timeframe for responding to requests received before the official results are announced are either:

  • within five months of receiving the request; or
  • within 40 days of announcing the exam results, whichever date is earliest.

Requests for such information made after the results are announced need to be dealt with as normal subject access requests (although the ICO understands there may be delays during the COVID-19 pandemic).

Do we have to provide the teacher assessments/rank order information to students at all this year?

This year it is likely that Schools will receive subject access requests from their students seeking information about how their grades have been decided, including teacher assessment and rank order and the evidence used to make these decisions.

The GDPR gives individuals a right to see information that is held about them unless an exemption applies. Students do not have a right to get copies of their answers from mock exams or assignments used to assess their performance. This is because the exam script exemption applies to information that has been recorded by the students themselves during an exam or assessment.

After results are issued, and subject to data protection and any other relevant legal considerations, schools and colleges may choose to proactively provide students with their centre assessment grade and/or rank order information, regardless of whether they have received any subject access request(s).

The ICO recommends that any school or college taking this proactive approach should be transparent about taking this step by providing advance notification (wherever possible) that they are doing so and consider what additional information and guidance will be provided, so that students understand the context in which their final calculated result has been decided.

What about disclosure of rank orders – might this reveal something about another student?

If releasing information about student rank orders, whether proactively or in response to a subject access request, Schools should consider whether providing this could reveal information about other students.

If it would then the School will have to consider whether it is reasonable to disclose this information rather than withhold it. This will involve balancing the data subject’s right of access against the other individual’s rights and so will depend on the specific circumstances. The ICO’s ‘What should we do if the data includes information about other people?’ section in the ICO’s Right of Access Guidance will be of assistance to you in this regard.

The ICO have also considered this particular issue and recently provided the following by way of illustrative example of the approach a school might take:

  • Disclosing to a student that they ranked first in the top grade is unlikely to disclose individual level information about the rest of the cohort. All it reveals is that the rest of the cohort ranked below them, rather than any other student’s rank position.
  • Disclosing the rank order may be an issue in particularly small cohorts (say 2 -3 people). Any requests received where a small cohort is concerned need to be looked at on a case by case basis – is it feasible to obtain consent from the other individuals to release the cohort information or is it reasonable to provide it without that consent? You’ll need to consider whether it’s fair to treat students differently in small cohorts, by refusing to release their rank order, when that information is available to students in larger cohorts.

What if my school needs further advice and guidance?

The Authority’s ‘Think Data’ online resource hub provides support materials, detailed guidance documents and useful templates that schools can use to ensure they are compliant with data protection legislation - www.eani.org.uk/thinkdata. The Authority’s Information Governance team is also available to advise and assist schools in this respect.

If you require further advice and guidance you can call 028 8241 1300 or email thinkdata@eani.org.uk.

Music FAQs

What guidance is available for schools on restarting music?

EA has recently published ‘Music Unlocked’, guidance for schools, on restarting music which includes guidance on singing, instrumental and vocal lessons and ensembles.

Last updated: 16/10/2020