Shock survey shows more than half of self-isolating teachers were asked to go to work

More than half of teachers who should have been self-isolating due to coronavirus have been asked to attend work, according to an NASUWT survey.

A snapshot survey of teachers has found that 51% of teachers who thought either they or someone in their household had coronavirus were still asked to attend work for at least some time during the week beginning March 23, the first week that schools were closed to all but the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

A further 39% who are classed as being in a vulnerable group due to underlying health conditions, pregnancy or age said they were also asked to attend for some or all of that same week.

While seven in ten teachers said they felt their school was treating them fairly over the pandemic, the survey found a significant number of teachers did not have the facilities or information to keep themselves and other safe while working in schools.

Nearly a third (32%) said there was not adequate provision of soap and hot water for handwashing in their school, nearly one in four (39%) said they had not been provided with appropriate guidance on maintaining school distancing by their employer and nearly half (48%) reported a lack of adequate arrangements to frequently clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects in their school.

The survey also found:

  • although the vast majority said their school is operating rota arrangements, only 39% said the rota in their school had been consulted on and agreed with staff
  • almost all (98%) of teachers said they had been asked to attend school during the Easter holidays
  • more than a third (36%) of teachers reported they had not been provided with the necessary IT equipment by their school to enable them to work from home
  • less than a quarter (24%) of teachers said they had been consulted on and agreed their work programme with their employer for working from home.

NASUWT acting general secretary Ms Chris Keates said: “At this time of national emergency, teachers are in the frontline of  keeping schools open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children whilst also to provide ongoing learning and support for children who are learning at home.

“It is pleasing to see that the majority of teachers feel they have been treated fairly by their school in the arrangements they have made. However, it is deeply concerning that a smaller, but still significant proportion of schools are failing to protect the health and welfare of their staff.

“Insisting that teachers who are either in vulnerable groups or who may have Coronavirus or live with those who have symptoms attend work is simply playing fast and loose with the safety and welfare of those staff. At a time when we all need to be acting responsibly in order to halt the spread of COVID-19 such actions are reckless.

“It is also deeply concerning that a large number of teachers report that good hygiene is not being followed in their school. Employers have a duty of care to do all that they can to keep workers safe, yet it seems that in too many cases too little protection is being put in place.

“In these unprecedented times it is deeply concerning to see that the adverse management practices some teachers face when their school is working normally are now following them into their home. Excessive workload, intimidation and punitive scrutiny are all being faced by teachers by employers who fail to respect teachers’ professional judgement and fail to recognise  that teachers, like all of us, are trying to manage their professional duties while also dealing with significant strain and worry about their families, their finances and their health.

“One of the mantras to emerge from this period is that ‘we are all in this together’ but the callous and reckless actions of some employers demonstrate that this message is little more than an empty slogan for too many teachers.”

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