Agency staff and volunteers could be deployed to cover classes if teachers go on strike, with schools expected to remain open where possible and priority given to the most vulnerable students.
The Department of Education (DfE) has issued updated guidance for schools after members of the National Education Union (NEU) voted to strike in a dispute over pay.
The guidelines urge school leaders to “take all reasonable steps to keep the school open to as many students as possible”.
It is good practice for school leaders, governors, parents and local authority to consult with the academy trust or diocese representative before deciding whether to closeEducational Counseling Department
According to the DfE, while the decision to open, restrict or close academy schools rests with the academy trust, it is usually delegated to the principal, and the decision to maintain schools rests with the principal.
The latest guidance states: “It is good practice for school leaders, governors, parents and local authority to consult with the academy trust or diocese representative (if applicable) before deciding whether to close.”
Principals are entitled to ask staff if they intend to go on strike, the DfE added.
The department explained that a repeal of a regulation in July – under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employing Firms (Amendment) Regulations 2022 – means employers can now “work with agency workers to replace the work of those who are officially on strike “.
The guidance issued on Monday indicated that “schools or groups of schools may wish to consider establishing a cover bank regulator”.
It was also found that legal guidelines allow schools to use existing members of the school’s volunteer staff to supervise on strike days, as long as they have the appropriate Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certifications.
Schools can also “identify other new volunteers who could support existing staff or volunteers who have been screened accordingly”.
While the DfE guidelines noted that continued attendance was “important for all students,” it said that schools affected by strikes may “need to prioritize temporarily” due to understaffing.
In such cases, schools are recommended to “apply the principles set out in the Contingency Planning and Contingency Guidelines, giving priority to vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers”.
Schools are also asked to consider prioritizing students based on exams and other formal assessments.
Distance learning is also an option for schools that need to limit attendance, DfE said.
It said that children entitled to free school meals who are being taught remotely in such cases should be provided with a “good lunch pack”.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/agency-staff-and-volunteers-could-be-used-to-fill-in-for-teachers-on-strike-days-42291190.html Agency staff and volunteers could be used to fill in for teachers on strike days