The Board of Management/Education and Training Board aims to facilitate the resumption of school based teaching and learning and the return to the workplace of staff. The return to the workplace must be done safely and in strict adherence to the public health advice and any guidance issued by the Department of Education.
Details for the safe reopening of the school facility and the applicable controls are outlined in this document.
Before reopening schools for the 2020/21 school year each school will need to have processes in place to include the following:
arrangements to keep up to date with public health advice, changes to any government plans for the safe reopening of society and Department of Education updates
arrangements to pass on this information in a timely manner to staff, pupils, parents and others as required
ensured that staff have reviewed the training materials
provided by the Department of Education
All staff will undertake and complete COVID-19 Induction Training prior to returning to the school building. The aim of such training is to ensure that staff have full knowledge and understanding of the following:
latest up to-date advice and guidance on public health
what to do if a staff member or pupil develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at school
outline of the COVID-19 response plan
Staff will be kept fully informed of the control measures in place in the school and their duties and responsibilities in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and will be updated with any changes to the control measures or guidance available from the public health authorities.
If a staff member is unsure about any aspect of the COVID-19 Response Plan, the associated control measures, or his/her duties, he/she should immediately seek guidance from the Principal, who is supported in this role by the Board of Management/Education and Training Board.
A national information campaign to support parents and pupils will happen in advance of schools reopening on issues such as COVID-19 awareness and to help minimise the risk of introduction and spread of the virus in schools.
The principal will also provide details of the Induction Training for completion by staff and details of any additional health and safety measures in place in the school to facilitate the staff member’s return to the school facility.
There are some school staff who may be unable to return to school. Current public health guidelines have identified these people as being in groups who are defined as being at very high risk. This will be updated in line with public health advice.
The list of people in very high risk groups include people who:
are over 70 years of age - even if fit and well
have had an organ transplant
are undergoing active chemotherapy for cancer
are having radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
have cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
are having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
are having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
have severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, lung fibrosis, interstitial lung disease and severe COPD
have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
are taking medicine that makes you much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppression therapies)
have a serious heart condition and are pregnant
Details of the arrangements that will apply for these staff, which will be in accordance with those applying for the public service generally, will be updated by the Department of Education following consultation with management bodies and unions and a circular will issue to all schools.
The Lead Worker Representative will work in collaboration with the employer to assist in the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of COVID -19 and monitor adherence to those measures and to be involved in communicating the health advice around COVID-19 in the workplace.
This section sets out how the provisions will operate in schools. The process for appointment of the lead worker representative in schools has been agreed centrally between the Department of Education and the education partners.
Responsibility for the development and implementation of the COVID-19 Response Plan and the associated control measures lies primarily with the Board of Management/ Education and Training Board and school management.
Strong communication and a shared collaborative approach is key to protecting against the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and looking after the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students. Adherence to the Return to Work Safely Protocol
will only be achieved if everyone has a shared responsibility in implementing the measures contained within the Protocol in their place of work.
If a staff member has any concerns or observations in relation to the COVID-19 Response Plan, control measures or the adherence to such measures by staff, pupils or others, he or she should contact the lead worker who will engage with the principal or Board of Management.
Role of the Lead Worker Representative
In summary, the role of the Lead Worker Representative is to:
represent all staff in the workplace regardless of role, and be aware of specific issues that may arise in respect of different staff cohorts
work collaboratively with school management to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare of employees in relation to COVID-19
keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 public health advice
In conjunction with school management, promote good hygiene practices such as washing hands regularly and maintaining good respiratory etiquette along with maintaining social distancing in accordance with public health advice
assist school management with the implementation of measures to suppress COVID-19 in the workplace in line with the Return to Work Safely Protocol and current public health advice
in conjunction with school management, monitor adherence to measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19
conduct regular reviews of safety measures
report any issues of concern immediately to school management and keep records of such issues and actions taken to rectify them
consult with the school management on the school’s COVID-19 Response Plan in the event of someone developing COVID-19 while in school including the location of an isolation area and a safe route to that area
following any incident, assess with the school management any follow up action that is required
consult with colleagues on matters relating to COVID-19 in the workplace
make representations to school management on behalf of their colleagues on matters relating to COVID-19 in the workplace
Every school will appoint one Lead Worker Representative.
In schools with less than 30 staff, a Deputy Lead Worker Representative will be appointed in addition to the LWR. The role of the Deputy LWR will be to deputise as LWR where the LWR is absent.
In schools with 30 or more staff and in all Special schools, an Assistant Lead Worker Representative will be appointed in addition to the LWR. The role of the Assistant LWR will be to:
assist the LWR in their duties as set out above
deputise as LWR where the LWR is absent
All staff, pupils, parents, contractors and visitors have a responsibility both as individuals and collectively to have due regard for their own health and safety and that of others and to assist with the implementation of the COVID-19 Response Plan and associated control measures.
It is important that schools review their emergency procedures involving, fire safety, first aid, accidents and dangerous occurrences to consider any new risks that arise due to the school’s COVID-19 Response Plan. Any changes to the school's existing emergency procedures should be documented and incorporated into the school’s safety statement.
Schools should also review their existing risk assessments to consider any new risks that arise due to the school’s COVID-19 Response Plan. Any changes to the school’s current risk assessments should also be documented and incorporated into the school safety statement.
First Aid/Emergency Procedure
The standard First Aid/emergency procedure shall continue to apply in schools. In an emergency or in case of a serious incident, schools should call for an ambulance or the fire brigade on 112/999 giving details of location and type of medical incident.
Access to School and Contact Log
Access to the school building will be in line with agreed school procedures.
Arrangements for necessary visitors such as contractors and parents with be restricted to essential purposes and limited to those who have obtained prior approval from the principal. The Department of Education Inspectorate may also need to visit schools and centres for education to support them as appropriate in the implementation of public health advice relating to creating a safe learning and working environment for all.
The prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a crucial step in restricting the spread of the virus and protecting the health and safety of the individuals themselves and other staff, contractors and visitors at the workplace. A detailed sign in/sign out log of those entering the school facilities should be maintained. The school should maintain a log of staff and pupil contacts. A sample contact log is available here.
The Data Protection Commission has provided guidance on the data protection implications of the return to work protocols. This advice can be found here.
Schools are reminded that all school records and data must be maintained and processed in compliance with the GDPR and the Data Protection Acts. The responsibility for compliance with the legislation rests with each school (or ETB) in their role as data controller.