The Board of Management/Education 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 schools 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:
means of keeping up to date with public health advice, changes to any government plans for the safe reopening of society and Department of Education updates
means of passing on this information in a timely manner to staff, students, parents and others as required
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 or her duties, he or she should immediately seek guidance from the Principal who is supported in this role by the Board of Management or Education and Training Board.
Induction Training for reopening schools in the new school year is under development by the department. This will be made available to all schools and staff in advance of school reopening.
A national information campaign to support parents and students 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.
A RTW form should be completed and returned 3 days
before returning to work.
On receipt of the completed form the principal will provide details of the Induction Training for completion by staff prior to the return to the workplace, 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.
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
The advice for this group is available from the HSE.
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.
Lead Worker Representative
The protocol provides for the appointment of a Lead Worker Representative (LWR) in each workplace. The LWR 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 respect of schools. These arrangements will operate for the 2020/21 school year and will be kept under review.
Responsibility for the development and implementation of the COVID-19 Response Plan and the associated control measures lies with the Board of Management or 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 Protocol will only be achieved if everyone has a shared obligation 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, students or others, they should contact the Lead Worker Representative who will engage with school management.
The role of Lead Worker Representative is separate to that of the Safety Representative under the health and safety legislation. However the Safety Representative may act as the Lead Worker Representative if selected to do so by the staff.
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
keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 public health advice
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
consult with school management on the control measures required to minimise the risk of staff and students being exposed to COVID-19
promote good hygiene practices, in conjunction with school management, 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
monitor, in conjunction with school management, adherence to measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19
conduct reviews of safety measures that are in place to address and suppress COVID-19 in the workplace. Reviews (including an examination of the workplace) should be conducted on a regular basis (at least twice per week)
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
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, students or others, he or she should contact the Lead Worker Representative who will engage with the Principal or Education and Training Board.
All staff, students, 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.
Schools will be required to display signage outlining the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and to support good hand and respiratory hygiene. The department will provide printed posters to schools with age appropriate key health messages – hand washing, sneeze and cough etiquette and so on.
Schools can then arrange to display the posters in prominent areas such as offices, corridors, staffroom area, classrooms and toilets.
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 schools 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 be incorporated into the schools 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 the school and contact log
Access to the school building will be in line with agreed school procedures.
Arrangement for necessary visitors such as contractors and parents will 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.
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.