UNISON Northern Ireland

Current Advice for UNISON members working in special schools and colleges, and alternative education settings – January 2021


With the new variant of the virus shown to being considerably more transmissible than the version prevalent in 2020 the previous risk assessment will no longer be fit for purpose.

As a matter of priority, specialist schools and colleges focus on:

  • Revisiting and improving the previous risk assessments and building time into the beginning of term for this to take place
  • Risk assessments should be updated for the premises as a whole and for individual children and young people with more complex needs
  • Time must be built in for extra training of staff in adopting any new measures that may be identified.
  • Allowing time for pupils and their parents/carers to be inducted into the new processes.

Leaders in special education settings must follow public health advice including:

  • A revised and updated setting-based risk assessment
  • Revised and updated risk assessments for individual pupils
  • Revised and updated risk assessments for staff members with characteristics that result in them being more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19


UNISON advice is that members should agree to support vulnerable pupils on a rota basis provided the following conditions have been met:

The necessary risk assessments have been consulted on with your union rep

  1. The risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety
  2. You are clear what additional mitigations have been put in place to ensure the safety of both yourself and others
  3. You have received training on the new measures
  4. A system is in place to feedback on how well the new measures are working


Government advice:

Northern Ireland – updates on Covid-19 with links to DfE advice https://www.education- ni.gov.uk/news/latest-guidance-covid-19-coronavirus

The NI Executive is meeting today (January 5) and there may be further  developments on schools including special education schools reopening. We will update this guidance in light of these developments.