Teachers should not be forced to work in schools during the Easter holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic, and they should be paid extra for doing it, a union has stated.
The NASUWT teaching union says some members have expressed concerns that they are being told they "have to work" over Easter to keep schools open for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
But union guidance says work should only be undertaken on a voluntary basis, and is calling on schools to give clarity as to how staff who volunteer will be paid.
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A union spokesperson said: “Some teachers are being pressured into working over Easter. They’re being told they have to.
“I don’t think it’s happening in huge numbers of schools. Most are being flexible, but there’s always a minority not doing what they should.”
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The NASUWT says it is currently preparing advice on working over Easter amid the pandemic. It says most teachers are currently working in their schools on a rota basis, depending on how many pupils are in school.
Current guidance on its website states: “During the period of continued Covid-19 school closures, some schools may seek to provide childcare to priority households outside of term time (eg, during the Easter, half-term and summer holidays).
“The NASUWT recognises that some staff may agree voluntarily to support such provision. It is important that where teachers volunteer in this way, there is clarity on how staff will be appropriately remunerated and with regard to insurances and indemnification.
“The NASUWT does not agree that teachers may be compelled to work during holiday periods.”
In a snapshot survey of around a thousand teachers, the union found that 51 per cent of those who should have been self-isolating due to Covid-19 (either through their own illness or that of a family member) were asked to attend work during the first week of the partial school closures.
The survey also found that 39 per cent of teachers classed as being “vulnerable” due to underlying health conditions, pregnancy or age said they had been asked to attend during the same week.
The DfE says it is “asking schools where possible” to maintain provision for vulnerable children and children of workers critical to the COVID-19 response over the Easter holidays, and says it knows that school leaders and local authorities will “make sensible decisions on staffing in doing so”.
Its guidance states that it would look to schools to cover the Easter period through:
- adopting rota systems, so that staff work working during the Easter period can have time off in lieu at another point in the year
- sharing staff with other institutions (for example, institutions which will be shut over Easter,
- making use of existing budget set aside for supply teacher costs, if Easter staffing needs cannot be met through rota systems and sharing of staff
- if schools still have unavoidable additional staffing costs they should discuss these with their Regional School Commissioner who will support them to resolve the issue.