What to do if your school implements restrictions?

This information is taken from the most recent contingency framework for schools (January 2022) and updated guidance from January 2022. Copy in italics is quoted from this document.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings/contingency-framework-education-and-childcare-settings#contingency-planning

Copy in italics is quoted from this document.

Where other documents are quoted, the links are shown.

The overriding principle of all the government guidance is shown here- and when challenging any new restriction this should be used to remind decision-makers of their responsibilities to children

The government continues to manage the risk of serious illness from the spread of the virus. The Prime Minister announced on 19 January that the temporary introduction of Plan B is to end. As a result, the Plan B measures in this guidance for schools are being removed. This advice remains subject to change as the situation develops.

COVID-19 continues to be a virus that we learn to live with and the imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education remains.

Our priority is for you to deliver face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils. The evidence is clear that being out of education causes significant harm to educational attainment, life chances, mental and physical health.

What can you do when restrictions are brought into your child’s school?

If your child is told to isolate as their sibling or a close contact tests positive or if they are told that they are exempt only if they are vaccinated – please see updated guidance below.

Close contacts in schools are now identified by NHS Test and Trace and education settings will no longer be expected to undertake contact tracing.

It is worth noting that schools cannot identify a pupil as a close contact. Only T&T can do this. Schools cannot say a pupil is a close contact because a class member or teacher has tested positive.

As with positive cases in any other setting, NHS Test and Trace will work with the positive case and/or their parent to identify close contacts. Contacts from a school setting will only be traced by NHS Test and Trace where the positive case or their parent specifically identifies the individual as being a close contact.

From 14 December 2021, adults who are fully vaccinated and all children and young people aged between 5 and 18 years and 6 months identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19 are strongly advised to take a LFD test every day for 7 days and continue to attend their setting as normal, unless they have a positive test result.

When an individual develops COVID-19 symptoms or has a positive test

Pupils, staff and other adults should follow public health advice on when to self-isolate and what to do. They should not come into school if they have symptoms, have had a positive test result or other reasons requiring them to stay at home due to the risk of them passing on COVID-19 (for example, they are required to quarantine).

If a pupil is awaiting collection, they should be left in a room on their own if possible and safe to do so. A window should be opened for fresh air ventilation if possible. Appropriate PPE should also be used if close contact is necessary. Further information on this can be found in the use of PPE in education, childcare and children’s social care settings guidance. Any rooms they use should be cleaned after they have left.

The household (including any siblings) should follow the UKHSA stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Pupils and staff should return to school as soon as isolation rules allow.

Confirmatory PCR tests

You should follow the latest government guidance on confirmatory PCR tests in Stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) following a positive LFD test.

 

👉 If guidance, as shown above, is not being followed, you should write to the school, local authority copying your MP, Local public health, local county and borough councillor Region Schools Commissioner, and the Department of Education to ask why they are contravening government guidance, and who has taken responsibility for overruling government guidance?

If your child has symptoms and has been told they must have a PCR test

Testing remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of infection within nurseries, schools and colleges. Continuing to take regular rapid tests will help you to identify infections early and reduce transmission.

Education and childcare staff, secondary school pupils and college students should continue to test twice weekly at home, with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, 3 to 4 days apart. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

There is no advice anywhere about whether children must have a negative PCR to return to school. As testing is voluntary it would suggest this is not acceptable, but schools can refuse to admit those with symptoms.

If you insist on your child attending nursery, school, or college when they have symptoms, they can take the decision to refuse your child if, in their reasonable judgement, it is necessary to protect other pupils and staff from possible infection with COVID-19. Their decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and current public health advice.

If your child has no symptoms and has been told they must have a PCR test before returning to school

There is no advice anywhere about whether children must have a negative PCR to return to school. As testing is voluntary it would suggest this is not acceptable,

Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

There is no need for primary age pupils (those in year 6 and below) to test regularly, unless they have been identified as a contact for someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and therefore take lateral flow tests every day for 7 days.

Children under 5 years who are identified as close contacts are exempt from self-isolation and do not need to take part in daily testing of close contacts. They are advised to take a PCR test if the positive case is in their household.

Face coverings in communal areas in schools

From 27 January, face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in communal areas.

 

From 27 January, staff and pupils should follow wider advice on face coverings outside of school, including on transport to and from school.

Face coverings in classrooms

From 20 January, face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in classrooms. 

A director of public health might advise you that face coverings should temporarily be worn in communal areas or classrooms (by pupils, staff and visitors, unless exempt).

If your school increases testing

There is no need for primary age pupils (those in year 6 and below) to regularly test, unless they have been identified as a contact for someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and therefore advised to take lateral flow tests every day for 7 days.

Testing remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of infection within nurseries, schools and colleges. Continuing to take regular rapid tests will help you to identify infections early and reduce transmission.

Education and childcare staff, secondary school pupils and college students should continue to test twice weekly at home, with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, 3 to 4 days apart. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

Parents and other visitors are strongly advised to take a lateral flow device (LFD) test before entering a childminder, nursery, school or college.

If the number of positive cases substantially increases in your nursery, school, college, or area, you might be advised to increase the use of lateral flow device (LFD) testing. This could also include advice on the reintroduction of onsite LFD testing.

 

👉 If guidance, as shown above, is not being followed, you should write to the school, local authority and Director of PH copying  your MP, local county and borough councillor, local public health, Region Schools Commissioner, and the Department of Education to ask

  • If it is the school’s instruction without PH advice – tell them only PH can advise and ask them for the minutes or copy of the PH instructions
  • If it is just in your school – ask for evidence that they are above the threshold as specified in the guidance
  • Ask for evidence that other measures have been tried prior to this
  • If it is as part of an area plan – address your letter to the Director of PH and local authority
  • Ask for a copy of the review that designated the county as an enhanced response area (if it is on-site testing) or defined it as an area of high prevalence (if it is an increase in testing at home)  and what the criteria are for not being that designation. It is only with these criteria are they allowed to increase testing if it is to the whole area

For increased on-site testing:

  • Ask when this will be reviewed
  • If it is in primary school refer them to the guidance that primary pupils are not expected to test and ask them who takes responsibility for going beyond government guidance and why

If your school introduces remote education

Where appropriate, you should support those who need to self-isolate because they have tested positive to work or learn from home if they are well enough to do so. Schools subject to the remote education temporary continuity direction are required to provide remote education to pupils covered by the direction where their attendance would be contrary to government guidance or legislation around COVID-19.

You should maintain your capacity to deliver high-quality remote education across this academic year, including for pupils who are abroad, and facing challenges to return due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, for the period they are abroad.

Independent Schools (not including academies) are only covered by the remote education temporary continuity direction in relation to state-funded pupils in their schools. However, they are still expected to meet the Independent School Standards in full at all times.

The remote education provided should be equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school.

You should work collaboratively with families and put in place reasonable adjustments so that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can successfully access remote education.

Full expectations for remote education, support and resources can be found on the get help with remote education service.

👉 If guidance, as shown above, is not being followed, you should write to the school, local authority and Director of PH copying  your MP, local county and borough councillor, local public health, Regional Schools Commissioner, and the Department of Education to ask:

  • If it is the school’s instruction without PH advice – tell them only PH can advise and ask them for the minutes or copy of the PH instructions
  • If it is just in your school – ask for evidence that they are above the threshold as specified in the guidance
  • Ask for evidence that other measures have been tried prior to this
  • Ask for evidence that their other mitigations have not broken the chains of in-school transmission, and for evidence that there is in-school transmission
  • If it is as part of an area plan – address your letter to the Director of PH and local authority- write a separate letter to the DfE, Regional Schools Commissioner copying local MP, local councillors – county and borough
  • Ask them why they have taken a decision which is reserved as a government decision and not one they can take locally?
  • Ask them who is taking responsibility for overruling government advice?

If your school introduces other restrictions such as not allowing parents in or open days

This is unclear in the guidance – local PH can introduce these in individual settings or across an entire area. It must be assumed that it follows the same criteria as other restrictions.

👉 If guidance, as shown above, is not being followed, you should write to the school, local authority and Director of PH copying  your MP, local county and borough councillor, local public health, Region Schools Commissioner, and the Department of Education to ask:

  • If it is the school’s instruction without PH advice – tell them only PH can advise and ask them for the minutes or copy of the PH instructions
  • If it is just in your school – ask for evidence that they are above the threshold as specified in the guidance
  • Ask for evidence that other measures have been tried prior to this
  • If it is as part of an area plan – address your letter to the Director of PH and local authority
  • Ask for a copy of the review that designated the county as an enhanced response area or defined it as an enduring transmission area or an area of high or rapidly increasing prevalence and what the criteria are for not being that designation.

For all:

  • Ask when this will be reviewed
  • As for a copy of their consideration that any educational and wellbeing drawbacks should be balanced with the benefits in managing transmission

If your school introduces bubbles

We no longer recommend that it is necessary to keep children in consistent groups (‘bubbles’). This means that ‘bubbles’ will not need to be used in schools. As well as enabling flexibility in curriculum delivery, this means that assemblies can resume and you no longer need to make alternative arrangements to avoid mixing at lunch.

You should make sure your contingency plans (sometimes called outbreak management plans) cover the possibility that it may become necessary to reintroduce ‘bubbles’ for a temporary period, to reduce mixing between groups.

Any decision to recommend the reintroduction of ‘bubbles’ would not be taken lightly and would need to take account of the detrimental impact they can have on the delivery of education.

👉 If guidance, as shown above, is not being followed, you should write to the school, local authority and Director of PH copying  your MP, local county and borough councillor, local public health, Regional Schools Commissioner, and the Department of Education to ask:

  • Ask them who has taken the decision to reintroduce bubbles and ask for a copy of the review where they took into account the detrimental impact they have on education
  • Provide them with the government guidance as stated above showing that bubbles are no longer recommended within school settings

If your child is cold in class

You should balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature.

 No child should be cold in class.  They need to balance the need for ventilation with keeping a temperature where pupils are comfortable.

The school’s guidance refers to the HSE recommendations

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/equipment-and-machinery/air-conditioning-and-ventilation/index.htm

 

Providing adequate ventilation does not mean people have to work in an uncomfortably chilly or cold workplace.

There are simple steps you can take to make sure your workplace is adequately ventilated without being too cold:

  • Partially opening windows and doors can still provide adequate ventilation
  • Open higher-level windows to create fewer draughts
  • If the area is cold, relax dress codes so people can wear extra layers and warmer clothing
  • You could set the heating to maintain a comfortable temperature even when windows and doors are open
  • Consider providing additional sources of heating if required. Only use fan convector heaters if the area is well ventilated

You can also regularly air the space in rooms that rely on natural ventilation, by opening windows and doors as fully as possible.

For example, you can do this when people leave for a break. Even 10 minutes an hour can help reduce the risk from virus in the air, depending on the size of the room.

 

👉 If guidance, as shown above, is not being followed, you should write to the school, local authority, HSE  and Director of PH copying  your MP, local county and borough councillor, local public health, Region Schools Commissioner, and the Department of Education to ask:

  • Ask them why they are not balancing the need for ventilation with the need for comfort?
  • Ask them why they have chosen to ignore the HSE’s advice that dress codes should be made less restrictive and allow more layers
  • Ask why they don’t follow the HSE advice that could regularly air the space in rooms that rely on natural ventilation, by opening windows and doors as fully as possible. For example, you can do this when people leave for a break. Even 10 minutes an hour can help reduce the risk from virus in the air, depending on the size of the room.- rather than all the time
Who to contact:
  • The Regional Schools Commissioners: find your local one HERE

CC : National Schools Commissioner

National.SCHOOLSCOMMISSIONER@education.gov.uk

Twitter: @NSC_DfE

  • Your MP

https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP

  • Your local authority

https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council

  • Your local Director of Public Health

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/directors-of-public-health-in-england–2

  • Your local councillors

https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-councillors

  • Call the Department of Education’s Covid hotline or via their website

Covid Hotline at DfE (0800 046 8687)

https://form.education.gov.uk/service/Contact_the_Department_for_Education

dfe.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk.

 

Copy the Schools Minister

robin.walker.mp@parliament.uk

If you are asked to provide a COVID Pass

From 27 January, mandatory certification is no longer in place and so venues and events are not required by law to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry, but some may do so voluntarily. Further information on this is available: Using your NHS COVID Pass for travel abroad and at venues and settings in England – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

You should not use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry for education or related activities such as exams, teaching, extra-curricular activities, or any other day-to-day activities that are part of education or training.

👉 If guidance, as shown above, is not being followed, you should write to the school, local authority and Director of PH copying  your MP, local county and borough councillor, local public health, Regional Schools Commissioner, and the Department of Education to ask:

  • Ask them who has taken the decision to implement the use of the COVID Pass and ask for a copy of this review/decision
  • Provide them with the government guidance as stated above showing that schools are not required to use the COVID Pass