Tuesday 8th September 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): How should schools operate during a local lockdown?

 

Disclaimer: Please note that this article was created using the government’s ‘contain framework’ and guidance for tier 2 restrictions. If your area is placed under local lockdown, please refer to the government guidance for your specific local area. This article will be updated as and when new guidance is released.

 

If the rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission rises above a certain level in a specific area, the government may place this area under a local lockdown. This would involve a return to stricter infection control and social distancing measures, as experienced nationwide earlier in the pandemic.

For schools, this may mean staying open only for a limited set of pupils, with vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers being prioritised. This also applies to early years settings. The appropriate authorities, including Public Health England (PHE) and the DfE, will decide which control measures to implement and will advise schools on the best course of action if a local lockdown occurs.

During a local lockdown, it is especially important to limit interactions with others, follow social distancing guidelines, stay two metres away from others, and maintain good hygiene. It is also important to carry out additional cleaning, particularly in schools.

If you or a member of your household/support bubble has coronavirus symptoms, everyone in your household should stay home. If you or a member of your household/support bubble is contacted by NHS Test and Trace, only that individual needs to stay home. If that individual then develops symptoms, their whole household will need to stay home.

 

Tiers of restriction

 

The government has outlined four different tiers of restriction for schools, which will be followed during a local lockdown based on the severity of the outbreak. Tier 1 is implemented when an area first goes into local lockdown. The tier numbers then rise as the severity of the outbreak increases. The tiers can be implemented in reverse as restrictions on the local area are eased.

In all tiers, all pupils in Year 7 and above and staff should wear face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be easily maintained. This excludes those who are exempt from wearing face coverings. Read our article on wearing face coverings in schools for more information.

Schools not in areas of local lockdown do not need to implement the restrictions in these tiers.

In tier 1:

  • All schools will remain open to all pupils.

In tier 2:

  • Early years settings, primary schools, alternative provision and special schools will remain open to all pupils.
  • Secondary schools should use a rota model for attendance, combining on-site provision with remote education; however, vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers should attend full-time.
  • Colleges should adopt similar principles to secondary schools, using their discretion to determine a model that limits numbers on site and works for their setting.
  • The DfE has released specific guidance on planning for tier 2 restrictions, which is available here. Our up-to-speed article also contains specific advice on how to operate under tier 2 restrictions, including how to implement a rota system and provide remote education.

In tier 3:

  • Early years settings, primary schools, alternative provision and special schools will remain open to all pupils.
  • Secondary schools and colleges should only provide full-time on-site education for vulnerable pupils, the children of critical workers and ‘selected year groups’ – the DfE is yet to define or provide guidance on this term, though their current guidance mentions pupils with upcoming assessments or who are in key transition years. Remote education should be provided for all other pupils.

In tier 4:

  • Alternative provision and special schools should remain open to all pupils.
  • Early years settings, primary and secondary schools, and colleges should only provide on-site education for vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers. Remote education should be provided for all other pupils.

 

Contingency planning and remote education

 

In a local lockdown, schools may need to partially close depending on the tier of restriction they are in. LAs or local health protection teams may also advise schools to temporarily close in the event of an outbreak. Schools need to have contingency plans in place for these scenarios, including for the continued delivery of education, both in school and remotely. Visit our Remote Education Resource Pack to access amendable templates to support your delivery of remote education, including our Pupil Remote Learning Policy, Live Online Lesson Risk Assessment, and Coronavirus (COVID-19): Contingency Plan.

 

Shielding

 

If coronavirus infection rates rise in local areas, those who were previously advised to shield may need to shield again while infection rates are high. Other members of their household may also be advised to shield. Those who are shielding are advised to maintain strict social distancing, stay two metres away from others (including those they live with), and not form support bubbles.

Those who are clinically vulnerable, but not shielding, are advised to minimise contact with others. These individuals should also be cautious when considering whether to form a support bubble, and who with, e.g. those who are highly exposed to coronavirus, such as healthcare staff.

Pupils who are following guidance to shield or self-isolate should not be penalised for non-attendance. They should be given access to remote education as soon as possible.

 

Travel

 

During a local lockdown, movement into, out of, and within the affected areas should be limited to essential travel.

Critical workers, including school staff, are permitted to travel into and out of the affected areas to go to work. Vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, and parents providing transport, are also permitted to travel into and out of the affected areas to go to school, care, and meetings with social workers or family courts.

 

Bibliography

 

DfE (2020) ‘Guidance for full opening: schools’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak> [Accessed: 4 September 2020]

DfE (2020) ‘How schools can plan for tier 2 local restrictions’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-schools-can-plan-for-tier-2-local-restrictions> [Accessed: 4 September 2020]

Department for Transport (2020) ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers’ <https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers> [Accessed: 4 September 2020]

Department of Health & Social Care ‘COVID-19 contain framework: a guide for local decision-makers’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/containing-and-managing-local-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreaks> [Accessed: 4 September 2020]

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