Since the Government’s announcement about the reopening of certain year groups in schools, Birketts’ Regulatory and Corporate Defence and Employment teams have seen a spike in the number of enquiries from education clients concerned about the health and safety aspects of bringing staff back into the workplace and pupils back into school.
In a number of situations, education settings are having to carry out their own risk assessments without the benefit of any health and safety expertise in-house. The risks associated with schools returning are unprecedented and Birketts team of expert lawyers and health and safety consultants are assisting schools across all sectors, including academy trusts, governing bodies of maintained schools and independent schools on how to discharge their legal obligations.
Matthew Gowen, Partner and Head of Birketts’ Regulatory and Corporate Defence team comments: “It is apparent that not all of those tasked with assessing the health and safety of ensuring that the return to the “new normal” is safe for employees, pupils and their families, are confident they have the knowledge, experience and understanding of the legal obligations that they have to discharge. Even for those clients that have such resource in-house, given the unprecedented nature of the current situation, clients have felt it beneficial to be able to review, discuss and take advice from us to ensure they done everything they can to protect the health and safety of all concerned.”
Abigail Trencher, Partner in Birketts’ Employment Team and Head of Birketts’ Education Sector Group is concerned that: “Many schools may feel compelled to open before they are satisfied they have taken all reasonable steps to address the concerns raised by staff and students and their parents and are not confident they are receiving the comprehensive guidance they need from Government to support the proposal that schools reopen. Schools appreciate the reasons why they should reopen, but are conscious of the need to safeguard the health and safety of students and staff. Managing health and safety is difficult and problematic during these challenging times and schools need time, and access to good quality advice and assistance, to ensure they effectively navigate their way through these unchartered waters to ensure they have adequately discharged their legal obligations.”
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at May 2020.