16th March 2020
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 latest advice and guidance on COVID-19 can be found below.
Please also access our Frequently Asked Questions page which is being updated regularly.
As this is a very fast moving situation. Please regularly check our website for updates.
If your school closes due to COVID-19 please contact INTO Northern Office on 028 9038 1455 or firstname.lastname@example.org to notify us and advise of any issues.
A Message to Members
from Caroline McCarthy, NC Chairperson and Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary
INTO Advice for Members – School Closure
15 October 2020
Following the announcement by the Northern Ireland Executive concerning a four-week lockdown, schools have received a communication from the office of the Education Minister.
While clarifying a number of issues, INTO is concerned that parts of the Minister’s letter may have caused confusion for school leaders.
Guidance for members is available in INTO Bulletin 3: School Closure (PDF)
INTO Advice on Working From Home: Getting the Balance and Making it Sustainable
14 October 2020
INTO know that all our members want to do the right thing by their schools and pupils in these very difficult circumstances. DE and the employing authorities should ensure that teachers and school leaders’ wellbeing is prioritised along with the children they teach.
Download our newly published guide: INTO Advice on Working from Home: Getting the Balance and Making it Sustainable (Docx)
INTO Advice for Members – Safety Procedures in Schools
9 October 2020
COVID-19 cases are increasing in schools and communities. DE Education Restart Guidance for School and Educational Settings in NI (29 Sept 2020) has seen a tightening, not relaxing, of safety procedures. There should be no relaxation of the current guidance in schools.
INTO advises all members to resist the introduction of practices which may increase identified risks.
For the latest advice read INTO Bulletin 2: Prioritising Safe Schools (PDF)
Education Restart: Guidance for Schools and Educational Settings in NI Updated
29 September 2020
The Education Restart Programme have written to schools in a letter dated 24 September 2020 (PDF) to advise that the New School Day/Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Schools and Educational Settings in Northern Ireland has been updated.
Full details are available on the DE Website.
INTO Frequently Asked Questions Updated
28 September 2020
To access the latest INTO FAQ document, CLICK HERE.
Education Restart: Guidance on Absence Relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for Principals, Managers and Staff
28 September 2020
The Education Restart Programme have today published Guidance on Absence Relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for Principals, Managers and Staff (pdf)
Engage Programme Launched
23 September 2020
The Department of Education has officially launched the ‘Engage Programme’ to support children and young people as they return to school.
In the DE letter of 23 September 2020 (PDF) they have written to Trade Union Side to outline the aims of the programme and have also issued additional guidance to schools in the document: Engage Programme: Guidance for Schools (PDF)
INTO Write to PHA Re: Inconsistencies in Advice to School Leaders
22 September 2020
The INTO letter of 22 September 2020 (PDF) seeks assurances from the PHA on the level of consistency regarding the responses to positive cases of Coronavirus in schools and advice being provided by their organisation to school leaders which they are then implementing.
PHA Education Helpline Launched
11 September 2020
The Education Restart Programme team have written to schools to advise that the Public Health Agency has established a dedicated phone line to assist schools when there has been a positive (confirmed) test for coronavirus (COVID-19) in an educational setting. This phone line is operational from today (11 September 2020). Please read the Education Restart team’s letter (PDF) for further information.
INTO Letter to Employers Re: Principals’ Concerns
7 September 2020
Our letter of 7 September 2020 (PDF) highlights INTO concerns regarding the increasing pressure that INTO principal members are being subjected to in particular following another weekend of communication chaos.
Employer’s Response to INTO Letter
1 October 2020
Employer’s Side has replied to the INTO letter of 7 September in their response dated 1 October 2020 (PDF)
INTO Letter to Minister of Education Re: Introduction of Initiatives Without Consultation
4 September 2020
Our letter of 4 September 2020 (PDF) highlights INTO concerns around the proposed distribution of home testing kits from school and the manner in which the additional funding to support the school restart has been calculated and distributed.
Education Minister’s Response to INTO Letter
15 September 2020
The Minister of Education has replied to the INTO letter of 4 September in his response dated 15 September 2020 (PDF)
Time Budgets: Transitional Arrangement Training
28 August 2020
Training is to be provided by EA to principals via webinar on 10th, 17th, 24th September.
Directed Time Budgets by 31st Oct 2020.
As negotiated by INTO, until individual time budgets are in place, no teacher should be directed to work more than 32.4 hours in a single week and it has been agreed that each working day should be counted as 6.5 hours and deducted from the 1265 hours available thereafter. Please note that teachers can be directed to carry out duties from home or school.
For further information and for links to register for the training webinars please read:
Management Side Letter to Principals: 28 August 2020 (PDF)
DE Re-opening Schools Guidance is Published
13 August 2020
The Department of Education have published their Re-opening Schools Guidance: New School Day (PDF)
INTO Advice for Members Returning to School
Read INTO Bulletin 1: 12 August 2020
Members who are pregnant, clinically vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable or live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable should read INTO Bulletin 1 (PDF) for the latest advice on returning to school.
The DE/EA have produced the following Risk Assessment Templates and Guidance:
INTO Guidance: Safe Return to Schools is Published
23 June 2020
Returning to school after the summer will present many challenges for teachers and foremost among them for INTO will be the protection of teachers’ health, well-being and safety coupled with no dilution of their terms and conditions of employment.
To assist our members INTO have published a guidance document entitled COVID Safer Schools (PDF)
Letter of Agreement re: Teachers’ Conditions of Service
23 June 2020
Management and Teachers’ Sides of the Teachers’ Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee (“TNC”) recognise that responses to the Covid-19 situation have the potential to impact on the conditions of service for teachers.
Both Management Side and Teachers’ Side remain committed to ensuring this is achieved by agreeing that any temporary changes made to ensure the continuity of education is not to the detriment of teachers’ terms and conditions of service.
Please read the Joint Letter of Agreement: 23 June 2020 (pdf) that has been agreed between both sides.
Minister Agrees to Emergency Meeting with INTO and NITC
Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary, reports that Minister Weir has agreed to an emergency meeting with INTO and the other members of the NITC. The meeting will be to discuss the plans for a wider re-opening of schools and proposals being developed by the Department of Education to have principals and teachers run summer schools in July and August.
Mr Murphy has been clear with the Department that the August 17th date and the issue of summer schools are matters that should have been consulted on directly with the INTO long before now.
16 June 2020
INTO Northern Secretary, Gerry Murphy has restated his views on the Department of Education’s proposals to canvas schools on the Minster’s proposals to hold summer schools.
INTO Request Members Email the Education Minister
12 June 2020
INTO is requesting that members email the Education Minister directly to outline members’ concerns with how this Minister is carrying out his duties.
DE’s Response to INTO Members’ Email Correspondence
23 June 2020
On 12 June 2020, INTO asked its members to email the Education Minister directly to outline your concerns with how this Minister is carrying out his duties.
The Minister received a significant number of letters from INTO members.
Please read the DE’s Response to INTO Members’ Email Correspondence: 23 June 2020 (PDF)
INTO Response to Minister’s Statement Re: Reopening of Schools on 17 August
11 June 2020
INTO have issued a response to statements made by the Education Minister in relation to the further opening of schools.
INTO Working For Our Members
5 June 2020
The Northern Secretary has written to members with an update on INTO’s ongoing work on your behalf:
DE CIRCULAR 2020/05: GUIDANCE ON REMOTE LEARNING PUBLISHED
5 June 2020
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:
SCHOOL DEVELOPMENT PLANNING 2020/21
3 June 2020
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
2 June 2020
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:
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:
ONLINE LESSONS: INTO GUIDANCE
27 May 2020
Read INTO’s guidance re: online preparation for pupils with regard to entrance exams and pre-recording lessons for online use:
INTO RESPONDS TO MINISTER WEIR’S STATEMENT TO THE AD HOC COMMITTEE ON 21 MAY 2020
22 May 2020
The INTO acknowledges the Minister’s appreciation to the teaching workforce for their efforts over the period of the COVID pandemic.
INTO ADVICE ON PUPIL REPORTING
21 May 2020
Following the issuing of the DE Guidance on Pupil Reporting, INTO has published guidance to members as follows:
DE GUIDANCE ON PUPIL REPORTING
20 May 2020
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:
ONLINE TEACHING & CONTACTING PARENTS AT HOME
20 May 2020
Read INTO’s updated advice re: online teaching and contacting parents at home: INTO Advice: 20 May 2020
GOOD NEWS FOR TEMPORARY WORKERS
19 May 2020
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 BENEVOLENT FUND
15 May 2020
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
15 May 2020
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:
OFQUAL CONSULTATION ON ASSESSMENT AND GRADING OF VOCATIONAL, TECHNICAL AND OTHER GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS
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.
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:
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:
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.
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
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:
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
THE FOLLOWING IS ADVICE AND GUIDANCE REGARDING THE OPENING OF SCHOOLS ON MONDAY 23 MARCH 2020:
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
PAYMENT OF SUB TEACHERS – UPDATE: 21 MARCH 2020
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.
GUIDANCE ON ABSENCE RELATING TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19): 20 March 2020
The health, safety and wellbeing of pupils and staff is of paramount importance to all education employers in the sector. The Guidance on Absence Relating to Coronavirus(COVID-19): Advice for Managers and Staff (PDF) has been produced so employers and employees are aware of arrangements regarding the sickness absence scheme in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19).
LATEST UPDATE: 19 March 2020
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
- 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
GUIDANCE ON ABSENCE RELATING TO CORONAVIRUS: 16 March 2020
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.
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’
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 hand washing:
INTO will update you with further information as and when it is available