Keenly-awaited guidance on how to keep teachers and pupils safe in partially open schools contains no new information on protective equipment for staff and has been branded "vague and unhelpful".
The guidance, published late last night by the Department for Education and Public Health England, recommends several "social distancing" measures such as staggering break times, reducing unnecessary travel on public transport, cleaning classrooms more often, and keeping class sizes small.
Coronavirus: 'Test all teachers to keep them safe'
The guidance was published following calls from union leaders for clear advice on issues such as whether there is a need for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks.
However, it does not provide any information on what types of personal protective equipment teachers need, if any, or whether they will be provided with any such equipment.
It states: "We will issue further detailed guidance for settings regarding the supply of personal protective equipment to settings that require it."
The NAHT school leaders' union said it expects "further and better" guidance to be published later today.
However, in the meantime, primary school teacher Oonagh Kelleher said on Twitter that the current situation was a "total minefield" for schools and called the latest document "vague and unhelpful".
I really feel for HTs at present as this is a total minefield. I think it just comes back to safeguarding/ duty of care and risk assessment. I think all HTs need to put their staff and pupils first as the DfE guidance is far too vague and unhelpful. Stay strong and safe Michael.— Oonagh Kelleher (@OonaghKelleher) March 25, 2020
Others working in schools expressed similar sentiments.
Really? Is that it? Literally just tagged on a few woolly comments. Guess what DfE, we've already stepped up cleaning, we did that a while ago now.— SBM Jo (@sbm_jo) March 25, 2020
Further guidance will also be produced on social distancing in special schools, the latest guidance states.
Union leaders yesterday spoke with education secretary Gavin Williamson over the phone about the need for teachers to be protected at work.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said in response to the latest document: “Last night, we saw the first iteration of the government’s safety guidance for schools. We expect further and better advice to be issued throughout the day today. We continue to engage with the DfE while it is updated.
“School staff are playing a leading role in the fight against coronavirus and it is right that the government should provide them with the expert medical advice, practical guidance and resources needed to keep themselves and children safe.”
The DfE has been contacted for comment.