LATEST GUIDANCE on COVID-19

In response to all of the recent communications from the Education Minister, Peter Weir and  Mr Derek Baker, Permanent Secretary, Department of Education, INTO has been, is and will be engaging in meetings, negotiations and lobbying with the Department of Education, all employing authorities, politicians and Stormont Ministers to represent the views and concerns of our members.

The INTO’s advice, to date, can be found below.

As this is a very fast moving situation please regularly check our website for updates.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

To access the INTO FAQ document, click here.

 

INTO WORKING FOR OUR MEMBERS

The Northern Secretary has written to members with an update on INTO’s ongoing work on your behalf:

INTO Letter to Members: 5 June 2020

 

DE CIRCULAR 2020/05: GUIDANCE ON REMOTE LEARNING PUBLISHED

The DE has published Circular 2020/05 which provides initial advice and guidance to schools on supporting remote learning.

 

DE GUIDANCE TO SUPPORT SAFE WORKING IN EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS: 4 June 2020

The DE have issued guidance to support safe working that applies to staff working in education settings in Northern Ireland:

DE Guidance to Support Safe Working in Educational Settings in NI (PDF)

 

SCHOOL DEVELOPMENT PLANNING 2020/21

The Department of Education has provided guidance to Boards of Governors and schools on school development planning for 2020/21, in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The guidance is available on the DE website.

 

EDUCATION RESTART PROGRAMME

The Education Minister has written to the NITC re: the establishment of the Education Restart Programme which, working alongside a wide range of stakeholders, will put in place the detailed measures and guidance which will enable a safe phased reopening of schools:

DE Letter re: Education Restart Programme: 2 June 2020 (PDF)

 

CONTINGENCY PLANNING FOR THE WIDER RE-OPENING OF SCHOOLS

The question of a wider re-opening of schools is one INTO have been fully engaged with for the past number of weeks. A lot of the work this has entailed has been around agreeing priorities with our trade union colleagues both in the other teaching unions and the unions representing our essential non-teaching colleagues.

Read the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council paper here:

Contingency Planning for a Wider Re-opening of Schools in the Academic Year 2020/21: May 2020 (PDF)

 

ONLINE LESSONS: INTO GUIDANCE

Read INTO’s guidance re: online preparation for pupils with regard to entrance exams and pre-recording lessons for online use:

INTO Guidance: 27 May 2020

 

INTO RESPONDS TO MINISTER WEIR’S STATEMENT TO THE AD HOC COMMITTEE ON 21 MAY 2020

The INTO acknowledges the Minister’s appreciation to the teaching workforce for their efforts over the period of the COVID pandemic.

INTO Press Release: 22 May 2020

 

INTO ADVICE ON PUPIL REPORTING

Following the issuing of the DE Guidance on Pupil Reporting, INTO has published guidance to members as follows:

INTO Guidance on Pupil Reporting: 21 May 2020 (PDF)

 

DE GUIDANCE ON PUPIL REPORTING

The Department of Education has written to schools to advise on pupil reporting at the close of this academic year, in light of the ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus.

The Minister has agreed to significantly reduce the prescribed reporting requirements and provide a temporary legislative basis that will enable principals to decide the content and format of reports:

DE Guidance: 20 May 2020 (PDF)

 

ONLINE TEACHING & CONTACTING PARENTS AT HOME

Read INTO’s updated advice re: online teaching and contacting parents at home: INTO Advice: 20 May 2020

 

GOOD NEWS FOR TEMPORARY WORKERS

INTO welcomes the introduction of the COVID-19 Income Protection Scheme designed to support those essential members of the teaching workforce not in full-time employment:

INTO Press Release: 19 May 2020

 

INTO BENEVOLENT FUND

It is especially important, during this COVID-19 crisis, for INTO members to be aware of the INTO Benevolent Fund. The fund provides two types of financial support; Death Grants and Hardship Grants. INTO members should pay particular attention to the Hardship Grants.

 

COVID-19: PRSD AND PAY PROGRESSION

TNC Management Side has written to all schools in consideration of the extraordinary and exceptional circumstances presented by the current public health crisis and recognising its adverse impact on the issue of PRSD and pay progression:

TNC Management Side Letter to Boards of Governors: 15 May 2020 (PDF)

 

OFQUAL CONSULTATION ON ASSESSMENT AND GRADING OF VOCATIONAL, TECHNICAL AND OTHER GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS

INTO Response to the OFQUAL Consultation: May 2020 (PDF)

 

SUPPORT TEACHER COLLEAGUES EMPLOYED THROUGH NISTR BY EMAILING YOUR MLA

INTO, through NITC, called for financial support for teachers employed through NISTR, from management side at the very start of the COVID-19 crisis. Recently the Department of Education approved a proposal to provide financial support to these teachers but the final decision to process it is with the Stormont Executive.

In an attempt to expedite this payment, INTO has prepared template letters that you can send to your local MLA to encourage them to support this proposal.

READ ON for full details

 

COVID-19: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO MAKING WORKPLACES SAFER

The Department for the Economy has published safety guide for the workplace entitled ‘A Practical Guide to Making Workplaces Safer’ . This guide sets out principles and practical steps that are vital for employers and employees to keep themselves and their workplaces safe. It also sets out necessary steps to be followed if employers and employees are concerned about safety:

Department for the Economy: A Practical Guide to Making Workplaces Safer (PDF)

 

BIGTU URGE CAUTION OVER RE-OPENING OF SCHOOLS

BIGTU (The British & Irish Group of Teacher Unions) have written to Peter Weir, Minister of Education to raise joint concerns regarding the future re-opening of schools:

BIGTU (British and Irish Group of Teacher Unions) Letter to Education Minister: 4 May 2020 (PDF)

 

CORONAVIRUS TESTING FOR FRONTLINE WORKERS

The Minister of Health announced on Wednesday (22 April) a further expansion of testing through NI centres to allow symptomatic frontline workers and/or their symptomatic household members to know whether or not they have the virus. Testing is now available to key workers who work in the essential areas listed in the following guidance.

 

LATEST UPDATE: 28 April 2020

INTO have written to Education Minister, Peter Weir, to raise their concerns following increased speculation regarding a possible early re-opening of schools. The DE have responded to INTO’s correspondence.

INTO Letter to Education Minister: 17 April 2020 (PDF)

DE Response to INTO: 28 April 2020 (PDF)

 

AWARDING FOR QUALIFICATIONS SUMMER 2020 : INTO ADVICE

INTO has received a number of queries in relation to the provision of estimated grades and rank ordering of students for the summer examinations/qualifications summer 2020.

To access the INTO advice, click here

 

LATEST UPDATE: 3 April 2020

The EA have written to Principals (letter dated 2 April 2020) re: cross organisational support for schools during the current situation.

 

CONTACTING PUPILS AT HOME: INTO ADVICE

Schools should not ask staff to contact pupils who appear not to be engaging with online activities, with the exception of those who may be penalised in terms of examinations if they do not engage.

To access the INTO advice, click here

 

INTO PRESS RELEASE: 1 April 2020

INTO calls for increased COVID-19 testing and adequate Personal Protective Equipment for workers in schools

 

LATEST UPDATE: 31 March 2020

In response to NITC representations, Management Side, DE and Employers are giving urgent consideration to the issue of sub teachers who no longer have access to work:

Management Side letter to NITC: 31 March 2020 (PDF)

 

LATEST UPDATE: 27 March 2020

The Education Authority have published a set of HR questions and answers to advise and guide managers and staff regarding important employment issues during this ongoing period of public health concern.

On clicking on the link above please select HR from the menu to access the information.

 

INTO ADVICE ON WORKING FROM HOME: Updated 27 April 2020

INTO know that all our members want to do the right thing by your schools and pupils in these very difficult circumstances and to work with DE and the employing authorities to ensure that teachers are prioritised along with the children they teach.

To access the INTO advice, click here

 

LATEST UPDATE: 24 MARCH 2020

Updated guidance has been issued by the Department of Education and the Education Authority, including FAQs for schools opening for key workers’ children

 

NITC CALLS FOR PAYMENT FOR SUB TEACHERS WITHOUT ACCESS TO SECURE WORK

NITC Letter to Permanent Secretary: 23 March 2020 (PDF)

 

THE FOLLOWING IS ADVICE AND GUIDANCE REGARDING THE OPENING OF SCHOOLS ON MONDAY 23 MARCH 2020:

Letter from Permanent Secretary to School Principals: 20 March 2020 (PDF)

DE General Guidance on COVID-19 For Schools (PDF)

DE FAQs For Schools Opening on Monday 23 March For Key Workers (PDF)

Letter from Permanent Secretary to School Principals and Staff: 22 March 2020 (PDF)

INTO Advice re: Permanent Secretary’s Letter of 22 March:

INTO advises principal members to complete the survey and return it to the Department of Education.

Members are advised to:

[i] make full use of the comments boxes to communicate the reasoning behind their responses to the Department;

[ii] make it clear they will in conjunction with their Boards of Governors keep matters under daily review;

[iii] not make commitments beyond tomorrow.

It is vital that the information the Department is seeking is provided as it will be essential in supporting the unions efforts to have the Department revisit their strategy of using schools and teachers to facilitate day care for essential workers.

 

INTO ADVICE & GUIDANCE: UPDATED SUNDAY 22 MARCH 2020

INTO Advice & Guidance To All Members on Attendance at School During The COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF): Updated 3 April 2020

INTO Advice: Sunday 22 March 2020 (PDF)

INTO FAQs: Sunday 22 March 2020 (PDF)

 

PAYMENT OF SUB TEACHERS – UPDATE: 21 MARCH 2020

NITC letter to Minister of Education re: Substitute Teaching Workforce: 19 March (PDF)

Confirmation From NISTR: 

As a substitute teacher, how will school closures affect my booking and pay?

Even though schools will be closed to pupils, they will remain open for staff so that they can access resource materials and make arrangements for remote learning as appropriate, to facilitate provision for vulnerable children and those of key workers, and be available to carry out other duties that principals may require of them.

All employees will receive normal pay across the range of circumstances that we are facing whether they remain in the workplace, are working from home or are unable to carry on working due to circumstances beyond their control. Substitute teachers will also receive their normal pay for the period of time that they have been engaged to work.

This includes any engagements currently registered on the NISTR system AND any engagements which have been verbally agreed between the school and the substitute teacher.

 

LATEST UPDATE: 19 March 2020

Letter From Minister of Education to Education Sector: 19 March (PDF)

 

INTO PRESS RELEASE: Uncertainty Ends for Teachers and School Leaders: 18 March 2020

INTO Northern Secretary, Gerry Murphy, commenting on the Ministers statement said …

This evening’s statement from the Joint First Minister ends the uncertainty for teachers and school leaders, at last, and is to be welcomed.

Teachers and school leaders, being the resilient and creative professionals, they are, have already begun to prepare resource material for a period of prolonged closure.

INTO has no doubt our members will continue, with the assistance of parents, to work diligently in maintaining continuity for learners.

Teachers will follow reasonable instruction from their school principal in relation to managing the distance learning of pupils. Principals and teachers must be careful to allow for their own domestic and family circumstances to be accommodated in the changed learning environment.

INTO remains available to members at this challenging time and we will seek to contribute to the work of the Department of Education and the other education bodies to ensure further information updates are provided to principals and teachers in the days and weeks ahead.

This is a worrying time for all concerned but today’s decision will go some way to reducing the additional stress levels principals, teachers, parents, children and young people have been enduring over the last week.

 

INTO ADVICE: COVID-19 AND SCHOOL CLOSURES: 18 March 2020

In light of the continued decision on the part of the Minister of Education to have schools remain open, a decision opposed by INTO along with all the education trade unions, teaching and non-teaching, and having reflected on the vague and inadequate advice offered by the employing authorities and the Department of Education, INTO Northern Committee now issues the following guidance to our members:

  • Principals are reminded that protocols are already in place for exceptional circumstances which may necessitate a school closure. This Coronavirus pandemic is, in our view, an exceptional circumstance. Therefore, a principal, in conjunction with the Board of Governors, should carry out risk assessments in relation to preventing and managing sicknesses or in the event of large-scale absences on the part of colleagues. (See example Risk Assessment PDF).
  • In the event of a confirmed case within the school community, INTO advise that the Principal contact the employing authority to seek instruction. INTO must insist that where this is the case, schools close immediately. Contrary to departmental advice, a pupil showing symptoms of illness and awaiting collection, should not be left unattended.
  • While INTO will always advise teachers with underlying health issues to seek advice from an appropriate medical practitioner should they feel unwell, on this occasion of a global pandemic, INTO advises our vulnerable members with underlying health issues to contact their principal/school to explain that they are going to follow government advice and remain at home.Our understanding of underlying health issues includes and is not exhaustive of  those suffering from:
    • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, heart disease, Kidney disease; liver disease
    • Solid organ transplant recipients.
    • chronic neurological conditions
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system
    • eligibility for a flu vaccine

     

INTO advise all our members in these categories or caring for people in them to stop attending school.

  • Pregnant women have been advised as of the evening of March 16th by the British Prime Minister not to attend school and to self-isolate. INTO members who are themselves pregnant should follow this advice.
  • Teachers who are prevented from attending their normal place of work due to COVID-19 will receive their normal salary. Medical certification may be required at a later date, but teachers will not be expected to provide same whilst schools are closed.
  • Substitute teachers should ensure that where they have been booked on NISTR they keep a record of bookings from NISTR to ensure full payment if they are unable to attend their work due to COVID-19.
  • Where schools remain open following completion of a risk assessment, INTO members should not attend non-essential meetings. Non-essential meetings include assemblies, PTMs, staff, departmental, planning meetings etc. Members are reminded that we remain on Industrial Action at this time.
  • Schools should discourage non-essential external visitors and ensure that sanitising gel or hand washing facilities are available for the whole school community to avail of.
  • Where schools remain open following a risk assessment, time must be given, within contact time, for teachers to prepare additional work for the eventuality of school closure.
  • In the event of a school closure, teachers should remain available to follow reasonable instruction from their school principal in relation to managing workload from home. Principals and teachers should be careful to allow for their own domestic and family circumstances with regard to such instruction.

 

NITC CALLS FOR SCHOOL CLOSURES: 17 March 2020

Letter from NITC to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill (PDF)

 

GUIDANCE ON ABSENCE RELATING TO CORONAVIRUS: 16 March 2020

Advice for managers and staff (PDF)

 

INTO GUIDANCE FOR TEACHERS: 16 March 2020

INTO advises that any member who is feeling anxious and concerned due to underlying medical conditions and the possible impact of contracting the COVID-19 virus should contact their GP and follow the advice given.

 

PAYMENT OF SUB TEACHERS: 13 March 2020

INTO is currently in discussions/negotiations with management with a view to ensuring that subs will be paid for days that they are booked through NISTR if they cannot attend school because of COVID-19.  Nothing has been finalised yet but INTO will be issuing guidance through the website / twitter etc as soon as anything has been agreed.  We hope to have our recommendations to management approved by early next week.

 

GUIDANCE ON COVID-19: 11 March 2020

In the current public health emergency, it is imperative that we all heed the public health advice and take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our colleagues from the COVID-19 virus.

The INTO is advising parents and schools to keep up to date with Public Health Agency (PHA) guidance on COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Public Health Agency guidance will be regularly updated on the PHA WEBSITE.

Additional guidance can also be accessed on the Department of Education’s website and Education Authority’s website.

 

BE AWARE – WASH YOUR HANDS WITH CARE

Regular handwashing is a key means of containment of this virus.  The following link opens a short video from the World Health Organisation which demonstrates the ‘fine art of handwashing’

https://youtu.be/3PmVJQUCm4E

We would draw your attention particularly to an article by Conor Pope in the Irish Times, dated 10 March 2020, highlighting the pitfalls of poor handwashing:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/coronavirus-pitfalls-of-poor-hand-washing-revealed-by-uv-light-1.4197876

 

 

                            INTO will update you with further information as and when it is available