On 22 February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out the roadmap for how coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions will be eased in the coming months. This article breaks down what schools need to know.
- [Updated] All pupils returned to face-to-face education from 8 March
- Secondary school pupils are eligible for testing
- Schools need to review and update their coronavirus risk assessments
- [Updated] Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals will no longer be required to shield from April
- Face coverings should be worn in classrooms in secondary schools unless social distancing can be maintained
- Schools must provide remote education for pupils who need to stay at home
- Schools must have contingency plans in place
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[Updated] All pupils returned to face-to-face education from 8 March
Since 8 March schools have been open to all pupils. Early years settings have remained open to all children throughout the national lockdown – this position has not changed.
All schools should be working to resume all before- and after-school educational activities and wraparound childcare, where this provision is necessary to support parents to work, attend education and access medical care, and to support pupils’ wider education and training.
Schools should encourage parents to send their children to school, particularly those who are vulnerable. Elective Home Education (EHE) does not automatically put children at greater risk of harm. Schools should consider whether a parent’s decision to educate their child at home gives greater cause for concern compared to remaining in school. If there is cause for concern, schools should follow their own safeguarding procedures.
[New] If a parent is considering home education due to concerns around safety, you should discuss what safety measures have been put in place with them.
Secondary school pupils are eligible for testing
Secondary schools should have been offering pupils testing at an on-site asymptomatic testing site (ATS) during the first week back to full provision – this testing was voluntary. Secondary schools should have offered three lateral flow device (LFD) tests to pupils, three to five days apart upon their initial return to school.
Pupils should have returned to face-to-face education following their first negative test result. Vulnerable children and children of critical workers should have continued to attend throughout this week, unless they received a positive test or needed to self-isolate. Pupils not undergoing testing should attend school in line with the school’s arrangements.
After this initial testing, pupils and staff in secondary schools are being supplied with LFD test kits to self-swab and test themselves twice a week at home. This will be a change to current procedures where secondary staff are being tested on site twice weekly.
Primary school staff should continue to self-test with LFDs twice a week at home. Primary-age pupils will not be tested with LFDs. This approach will be reviewed in the light of emerging evidence.
Schools need to review and update their coronavirus risk assessments
As schools prepared for full opening, they needed to review and, where necessary, update their coronavirus risk assessments and any other affected health and safety risk assessments. These risk assessments need to be treated as ‘living documents’, meaning they should be regularly reviewed and updated as guidance changes.
Schools must notify staff and their health and safety representatives of the outcomes of risk assessment reviews. Schools must also communicate any changes to their procedures to parents.
[Updated] Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals will no longer be required to shield from April
[New] Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) individuals are not required to shield from 1 April, in line with the government’s guidance – these individuals should receive a letter with updated guidance on steps they can take to reduce their risk. CEV staff should be supported to work from home; however, where this is not possible, they should return to working on site from 1 April.
[New] All CEV pupils should return to on-site provision from 1 April, unless they have been advised otherwise by their GP or a clinician.
The Department of Health and Social Care has added a third category to the definition of CEV. The definition has been expanded to include a new group of adults who have been identified through the COVID-19 Population Risk Assessment as potentially being at high risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. Individuals identified as CEV through this risk assessment should follow the same guidance as other clinically vulnerable individuals. Anyone newly identified as part of this group will have been notified.
Face coverings should be worn in classrooms in secondary schools unless social distancing can be maintained
It’s already recommended that in schools educating pupils in Year 7 and above, pupils and adults should wear face coverings when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms where social distancing cannot be easily maintained. The DfE also recommends that face coverings are worn in classrooms or during activities, unless social distancing can be maintained. This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, e.g. in PE lessons. These measures will be in place until Easter, when they will be reviewed.
In primary schools, face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible.
Schools must provide remote education for pupils who need to stay at home
Schools will still be required to provide remote education as soon as reasonably practicable to pupils covered by the Remote Education Temporary Continuity Direction where their attendance at school would be contrary to government guidance or legislation around coronavirus, e.g. where they are self-isolating or shielding.
Schools must have contingency plans in place
In the event that restrictions in schools are needed to help contain the spread of coronavirus, schools may be asked to revise their delivery models for a short period of time. Schools need to have contingency plans in place for outbreaks in school or changes in restrictions.
- Read the DfE’s guidance for schools in full here. Specific guidance for early years settings can be found here.
- We’ve been updating a number of our resources in line with the government’s latest guidance. Take a look:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Risk Assessment for Schools
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Contingency Plan
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Staff Handbook
DfE (2021) ‘Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak> [Accessed: 19 March 2021]
DfE (2021) ‘What parents need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during COVID-19’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/what-parents-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-covid-19#elective-home-education> [Accessed: 19 March 2021]
Department of Health and Social Care (2021) ‘Shielding advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable to stop from April’ <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/shielding-advice-for-the-clinically-extremely-vulnerable-to-stop-from-april> [Accessed: 19 March 2021]