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.

The advice we are offering you below can be summed up as follows:

  • Do as much or as little as you and your family can cope with;
  • You are a teacher, not a superhero;
  • The parent/carer of your pupil remains the child’s primary educator;
  • Do not judge yourself against what you may hear others are doing;
  • This is not home schooling; this is an emergency situation where NONE of us have had any time to effectively plan or prepare;
  • A reasonable expectation of you is what you can get done while juggling the reality of your life in these current circumstances.

This advice refers mainly to teachers and principals in traditional school settings. However, please note this advice applies to ALL INTO members, whether in schools or other approved education settings.

General Principles/Guidance:

  • Members/teachers working from home must have their own health and caring responsibilities taken into account, and the expectations of all concerned should be reflective of this.
  • Personal circumstances will vary and may impact on the number of hours a teacher can reasonably be expected to be engaged in preparation for and delivery of remote learning. INTO asks that schools update advice to parents on these matters to inform and manage parental/carer expectations.
  • The provision by schools of general guidelines to teachers are more realistic in the current situation rather than schools seeking to be prescriptive or precise in their requests of teachers.
  • Schools and members/teachers should be sensitive and mindful of potential difficulties faced by parents in trying to ensure that their children are engaged in the work that is provided by schools. What is sent home should be an offer of work that might be useful if circumstances allow for it to be done by pupils, rather than a demand for completion.
  • Time should be set aside for members/teachers to engage in professional development opportunities at their own discretion and of their own choosing. Due to the current circumstances, prescriptive and time bound exercises in relation to CPD are not practical and are to be avoided.
  • The format of remote learning may change and evolve, all changes should be aimed at reducing input and improving output.
  • Members/teachers should bear in mind that this is a temporary measure and that remote learning can never be a fully effective substitute for face-to-face teaching and learning.

Communications, ICT, Online Lessons, Conference Calls:

  • Individual privacy of members/teachers, online security, GDPR and safeguarding must all be considered before delivering online tutorials, materials, sharing of files, emails and other communications. Should these present any issues for members they should raise concerns with their employer and with their INTO School or Northern Committee Representative.
  • Methods of communication between teacher, pupils and parents/carers should only be through secure platforms already established as safe and agreed methods used by each school.
  • Communications with families should take place only where absolutely necessary and should be sensitive to and mindful of the wider context of the global pandemic we are in the midst of.
  • Pupil access to the work which teachers have prepared and sent home either as hard copies or electronically will vary from home to home and postcode to postcode. Broadband speed, sophistication of available hardware, numbers of appropriate ICT devices, workspace and other necessary facilities in households must be considered.
  • Members/teachers must ensure that all communication is of a professional standard and communication should be appropriate to the audience for which it is intended. All communications will be discoverable at a later date.
  • Particular cognisance must be taken of Nursery and KS1 pupils and their dependence on adult support to complete most or all tasks.
  • Staff conference calls should be during normal teaching hours, with the agreement of the staff involved. Account must be taken of the availability of the necessary hardware, software and Broadband access of staff members.  Such calls should be treated as a meeting and have an agenda provided in advance of the call.
  • Schools should ensure parents and pupils are made aware that it is unreasonable to expect replies outside of normal working hours and to be mindful of the time it may take teachers to reply to all parents/carers and pupils. The same applies to communications between management and staff and vice versa.
  • 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.
  • There may be legitimate exceptions to this around safeguarding/child protection/pastoral concerns. Safeguarding policy should be followed in relation to such contact.

Preparation/ Marking/ Assessment:

  • Members are advised to be careful in preparing work for pupils that they do not place unrealistic demands upon themselves or generate an unreasonable amount of work for their pupils. In providing work to pupils, members should bear in mind that activities aimed at consolidating and re-enforcing previous learning are the most meaningful in the current circumstances.
  • Marking during this period should remain professional and be seen as primarily pastoral.
  • Expectation in relation to marking/assessment of work should be limited to a few selected pieces of work each week. These pieces should be determined by the teacher’s professional judgement.
  • In Post-Primary settings priority should be given to those pupils who are working toward accredited qualifications. This too must be reasonable and manageable.
  • In the interests of social distancing and limiting the spread of COVID-19, members should not be dropping off or collecting work at school or leaving work for parents to collect.
  • At this stage in the virus cycle members should not be going in to school to prepare work for pupils. Members should engage in online marking and distribution of work only, in keeping with the Government instructions, at the time of writing, that no one should make any unnecessary journeys.
  • Members are instructed not to engage with any monitoring and associated activities such as book scoops, observations or similar during this period.
  • Any work provided during school closures must not be used for the purpose of monitoring or evaluation either now or in the future.
  • Requests for lists of work must be reasonable and take account of workload implications and personal circumstances of members of staff in regard to their access to ICT resources at home.
  • Requests for records of work provided should be accompanied with a clear reason for each request. While Principal’s may wish to have information with which to advise conversations with parents who may be enquiring about work which has been set, it is not reasonable to ask for lists for distribution to parents other than what a teacher or department has provided previously.
  • In addition to previous advice in respect to work completed at home, INTO reminds members that there is no expectation that all work provided or suggested to parents must be marked either during the period of school closure or when schools reopen.

Other Professional Tasks:

  • There will remain an expectation from parents that they receive a written report for their child. Schools and parents should be mindful that such reports will be reflective of the shortened academic year and may require a change in format and detail. Reports are to be completed where this can be done without placing an unreasonable demand on a member and where they can be accessed electronically only. End of year reports may be replaced by formative reporting.
  • INTO is aware that further guidance will be issued by DE in relation to reporting on pupil progress, therefore schools should delay report writing until this is issued and considered by schools.
  • The distribution of reports at this time could be problematic in relation to PHA guidance and GDPR.  Schools may wish to consider delaying the distribution of reports until such time as this can happen securely and safely from school.
  • Sufficient and specific non-teaching time must be left aside during normal working hours to complete reports.  Also, each subject area, irrespective of font size, should be covered in no more than 50 words.
  • Where members/teachers have a particular management responsibility/ Teaching Allowance, schools should factor in time for them to do this if the work is business critical.
  • Day-to-day management and administrative responsibilities of school leaders should continue only where they are business critical at this time, but it must be recognised this will impact on their available time to deliver remote learning where they are Teaching Principals.
  • Principal members should be mindful of their own caring responsibilities in school and at home and ensure their Board of Governors have realistic expectations regarding their own workload at this time.
  • There needs to be a hiatus on some aspects of school development planning and similar activities. Schools should concentrate on those things that are business critical and are necessary to the safe operation of schools when they reopen, as well as ensure there is no detriment to members’/teachers’ terms and conditions.
  • The unique challenges of this situation mean that work undertaken by members during this unprecedented period cannot and should not be used in relation to effective teacher procedures either now or in the future.
  • Members are advised to take regular breaks throughout their working days.
  • Should you have any other concerns regarding working from home please contact your INTO School Representative or Northern Committee Representative in the first instance for further advice and guidance.

In addition INTO offers the following guidance to members in relation to the completion of IEP’s:

Should I be writing an IEP for Term 3?

  • An IEP has a number of targets, individual to a child, written by the teacher based on assessment and where possible, discussion with the pupil, following identification of areas of need. The IEP is evaluated, may be reported on, and in turn will identify the next targets for the next term for the teacher to be teaching the pupil. Due to the sudden end of the school term many IEPs will not have been formally evaluated. Teachers should evaluate what they can of the most recent IEP from the work that was done up to school closure, there should be no expectation of the IEP being completed.
  • It will not be appropriate to write an IEP for Term 3, pupils are not in school and the pressure to meet targets would be placed on parents/carers who would then be responsible for evaluating. The previous IEP will have already been shared with parents when written.

Are annual Reviews still to be completed?

  • PHA guidance clearly states there should be no non-essential meetings.
  • If there is no change in the statement, the annual review should be postponed until schools return and the review can be held as would normally be done within the school.
  • If there is a change needed in the statement (for example, additional support needed, new diagnosis or if a transition review at P7), the review should be offered to be held with the parent/carer over the phone and recorded on the annual review that it was completed by phone.

The Education Authority has overseeing responsibility for the follow up and implementation of information from annual review reports. Completed Annual Reviews can be emailed & Principals should request guidance from their schools statementing officer at EA Special Education.

Teachers like lots of people, are feeling very worried and stressed right now. It is ok to feel like this no one has all the answers. INTO are mindful of the increased stress and strain that this situation is placing on the mental health of our members.  To this end INTO has provided some advice and guidance on this which can be found on our website.

 We will continue to press the Department for increased support for members’ health and wellbeing during and after the COVID-19 Crisis.

Members are also reminded that they can avail of existing counselling services through INSPIRE Wellbeing.