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Coronavirus: How to organise your skeleton staffing structure

March 31, 2020, 13:53 GMT+1
Read in about 6 minutes
  • Richard Skipper, senior content editor at The Key, gives some pointers on how to organise your staff so you can stay open safely
Coronavirus: How to organise your skeleton staffing structure

If you’re opening your school for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, you’ll be juggling social distancing measures, limited staff availability, safeguarding complexities and more. Richard Skipper, senior content editor at The Key, gives some pointers on how to organise your staff so you can stay open safely for those who most need it during the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Figure out which staff you really need
You should keep the number of staff in school at the absolute minimum. If staff can work from home, then they should. When considering who you’ll need in school, identify:
What key roles you need every day:

A member of your SLT

Enough teachers and/or teaching assistants (see below)

first aider – if you have EYFS children, a paediatric first aider must be present

DSL (or deputy DSL) who’s available to come into school – though, if necessary, staff could just contact them via phone or internet (e.g. Skype) – the main thing is that they’re available if needed



How many teachers and/or teaching assistants you need for the number of pupils you have – try to keep class sizes small enough to enable children to sit two metres away from each other:

If you have EYFS children, the DfE has said you can change your normal ratios

If you have KS1 children, the government intends to relax the rules on infant class size ratios

If you have children in other key stages, there are no ratio rules in place here

If you have children with EHC plans that set out required ratios, try to stick to these – however, the DfE has said you should work together with parents and your LA to respond ‘pragmatically and flexibly’ to each pupil’s needs

Teaching assistants can supervise children and deliver lessons, so long as you’re satisfied they’re competent enough to do so

If you’ll be running extended provision, like breakfast and after-school clubs, you could ask the above staff to also manage these - or you may want to draw up a separate list of required staff.

2. Identify who can come into school

According to the DfE’s social distancing guidance, staff with serious underlying health conditions must not attend. Also, staff with an increased risk of severe illness should work from home where possible. Staff who live with someone in the latter group can attend, but those living with someone in the most vulnerable group should be allowed to work from home where possible. Be aware that unions may advise that staff living with anyone who’s more vulnerable should not come into school – see this NEU guidance , for example.

You might also want to consider letting staff work from home if:

They have sole caring responsibilities – teachers and support staff are critical workers so could send their kids to school, but the DfE says that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be

They would need to get in via public transport – you could alternatively allow these workers to adapt their hours to avoid rush hour

Make sure staff let you know if they need to self-isolate. If they, or anyone they live with, experiences a new, continuous cough or a high temperature they’ll need to self-isolate and can’t attend work. Make it clear to staff they should let you know as soon as possible if they think this is the case, ideally the night before.

Complete a rota

It’s best to have a rota system, with staff alternating when they work from home and when they’re in school – both for flexibility and to make sure you have people to step into key roles if needed.

For example, Oasis Academy Lister Park in Bradford has introduced a staggered approach for all staff who are well enough to be in school. That is:

1. One week in school

2. One week in reserve (working from home unless staffing shortages mean they have to come into school)

3. One week working from home

4. Repeat

If you’re a smaller school, this might not be possible for all staff, but focus on keeping staff who’ll interact directly with children on a rota (e.g. teachers and teaching assistants). Make sure your rota includes contingency plans, in case any member of staff can’t come in.

If you don’t have enough staff, contact your local authority for advice. If they think you shouldn’t open, they should be able to arrange alternative provision for your pupils.

Author: Richard Skipper is a senior content editor at The Key, a provider of up-to-the-minute sector intelligence and resources that empower education leaders with the knowledge to act. The Key has created a coronavirus hub filled with practical advice and resources to help schools every step of the way as the situation evolves.