This week, The Department for Education has published an updated framework for managing Covid in schools.
The contingency framework was sent out yesterday.
It includes management plans outlining how schools and childcare settings should operate if local outbreaks occur.
This also includes responding to Variants of Concern (VoC).
The updated guidance states that councils, directors of public health and Public Health England health protection teams can recommend certain measures for individual schools or clusters of settings. This will help manage outbreaks locally.
If there is a need to address more widespread issues across an area, “ministers will take decisions on an area-by-area basis”.
The impacts of having missed education during the pandemic are severe for children, young people and adults.
Therefore the government has made it a national priority that education and childcare settings should continue to operate as normally as possible, during the pandemic.
Measures affecting education and childcare may be necessary in some circumstances, for example:
- To help manage a COVID-19 outbreak within a setting
- If there is extremely high prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and other measures have failed to reduce transmission
- As part of a package of measures responding to a Variant of Concern (VoC)
Measures that settings should plan for
All education and childcare settings should have outbreak management plans.
These should outline how they would operate if any of the measures described were recommended for their setting or area.
They should also include how they would ensure every child, pupil or student receives the quantity and quality of education and care to which they are normally entitled.
Secondary schools and colleges should make sure their outbreak management plans cover the possibility that the reintroduction of Asymptomatic Testing Sites (ATS) is advised in their area.
This could include advice to increase the use of home testing by staff, pupils and students in secondary schools and colleges.
Secondary schools and colleges should make sure their outbreak management plans cover the possibility that it is advised that face coverings should temporarily be worn.
This may include face coverings in communal areas (for pupils and students) and/or classrooms (for both pupils, students and staff).
Shielding is currently paused.
In the event of a major outbreak or VoC that poses a significant risk to individuals on the Shielded Patient List (SPL), ministers can agree to reintroduce shielding.
Shielding would be considered in addition to other measures. This would address any residual risk to people on the SPL, once the wider interventions are taken into account.
Settings should make sure their outbreak management plans cover the possibility they are advised to limit things like, residential educational visits, open days, transition or taster days, parental attendance in settings and performances in settings.
Attendance restrictions would only ever be considered a last resort. Details of these should be covered within the plan.