Hollie Suddards
Posted on 18 Mar 2020

Coronavirus disruption: the education sector is no exception

The rapidly evolving coronavirus outbreak is both a public health crisis and a disruption to businesses and our daily lives. Numerous companies are adopting new work models, favouring working from home and virtual contact with their clients, due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19. It is thought that this approach will become more common following Boris Johnson's advice that work from home should be adopted where possible.

Schools in a number of countries, including France, Republic of Ireland, Italy and Iran have closed and many fear that it will not be long until a similar approach is adopted at schools throughout England. The government has yet to shut UK schools but many fear that it is inevitable.

Although children have not been placed in the vulnerable category by the NHS website, many will have social interactions with others who are vulnerable and pupils with special educational needs and disabilities will inevitably be affected. For instance, schools may be faced with the difficulty of not having enough staff available to teach, support and supervise children as more and more people are having to self-isolate. The government are faced with the task of balancing this risk with the disruption that school closures would cause with parents, including NHS staff, having to work from home to cater for their children's' needs.

Whilst open, schools should consider adopting a pragmatic approach such as:

  • cancelling all school trips;
  • encouraging social distancing for example by spacing out lunches to limit the number of children and staff eating at the same time;
  •  sending anyone home who has a new continuous cough or a high temperature, and isolating any child being send home whilst waiting for their parents to collect them;  and
  • ensuring that children and staff wash their hands more often and that school classroom surfaces and objects are regularly cleaned and disinfected. The most recent health information and advice given by the NHS can be found here.

Further guidance for education settings faced with COVID-19 can be found on the Department for Education website.

In a more general context, directors of companies in distress due to this pandemic need to be aware of their obligations. Douglas Hawthorn outlines the implications of disrupted trade for directors and steps that businesses can take to prepare for coronavirus disruption and Harriet Chopra discusses the different types of insurance cover that businesses may have protecting it from losses resulting from the outbreak.

Confronted with numerous “panic buyers” preparing for the worst, many superstores, such as Tesco have put new policies in place preventing customers, online and in store, from purchasing more than five of certain items such as antibacterial gels and wipes. Whereas panic buying may be a positive for certain retailers, it has had a significant impact on international supply chains and trade. In his recent article David Thompson discussed this impact giving an overview how businesses should be aware of force majeure clauses in their commercial contracts and the actions they should take in the current climate. Jonathan Kitchen discusses builds on this point and looks at how parties may bring a claim invoking a force majeure contractual clause to vary or terminate the contract where a party cannot perform their obligations due to coronavirus.

If you have any specific queries or concerns over how to respond to particular issues or would simply like to talk something through, please do get in touch with Hollie Suddards by email or by phone on 02076594631.

This article is for general information only and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you have any questions relating to your particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice. For further information on Michelmores' Education Practice, please contact Charlotte Antoniou or Tom Briant-Evans.