Overall there are relatively few substantive or unexpected changes in the revised guidance. On the whole, most of the changes reflect positions and policies that have already been shared in previous weeks (eg the introduction of the national system of three ‘tiers’ is now included).
Below, we have listed the key changes so that members do not have to re-read the entire document again. While we have tried to summarise those changes, we recommend that members refer to the original document if further clarity is required.
We have not included minor changes to wording or language where it does not substantively change the point being made. Nor have we highlighted any sections that have been removed where there is little or no direct impact on schools.
- The paragraph referring to an ONS study on the risks to staff working in schools has been removed. Instead, the guidance has been updated to say: “Given the growing evidence base, the balance of risk is now overwhelmingly in favour of children returning to school.”
Section one: public health advice to minimise coronavirus (COVID-19) risks
- Within the systems of controls, references to the use of ‘bleach’ have been removed, and the guidance now simply refers to ‘detergents’
- Within the system of controls, a new preventative measure has been added: ‘Keeping spaces well ventilated’ – see below for details
- Some changes made to the advice for people who have been caring for a person with symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has symptoms. The guidance now says: “Any member of staff who has provided close contact care to someone with symptoms, while wearing PPE and all other members of staff or pupils who have been in close contact with that person with symptoms, if wearing a face covering, do not need to go home to self-isolate unless:
- The symptomatic person subsequently tests positive
- They develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should arrange to have a test)
- They are requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or the PHE advice service (or PHE local health protection team if escalated).
- Confirmation that: “When an area moves to Local COVID Alert Level: high or very high, in settings where pupils in year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. This does not apply to younger children in primary schools and in early years settings.”
- A new paragraph on supporting pupils with SEND has been inserted that states: “Schools, local authorities, health professionals, regional schools commissioners and other services should work together to ensure that children with medical conditions are fully supported, including through the use of individual healthcare plans, so that they may receive an education in line with their peers. In some cases, the pupil's medical needs will mean this is not possible, and educational support will require flexibility. Our guidance on supporting pupils at school with medical conditions remains in place.”
- New qualification to a sentence on record keeping has been added (new section in italics): “A record should be kept of all visitors with sufficient detail to support rapid contact tracing if required by NHS Test & Trace.”
- Updated information on ventilation has now been included. Given the length of that section, we have not included it here. Members should refer to the DfE's guidance for more information.
- Updated information on home testing kits has been included. The main message is that: “It is for schools to determine how to prioritise the distribution of their test kits in order to minimise the impact of the virus on the education of their pupils.” This can include giving tests to staff as many schools have already done
- Confirmation that: If someone with symptoms tests negative for COVID, then they should stay at home until they are recovered as usual from their illness but can safely return thereafter. The only exception to return following a negative test result is where an individual is separately identified as a close contact of a confirmed case when they will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of that contact.
- A new paragraph has been inserted referring to the new NHS Covid app.
Section two: school operations
- A new paragraph relating to pupils travelling from abroad to boarding schools has been added. Boarding schools should read this paragraph in the guidance
- Substantial changes have been made to the section on shielding and self-isolating. The guidance now says: “New advice for those identified through a letter from the NHS or a specialist doctor as in the group deemed clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV or shielding list) was published on 13 October here. The guidance provides advice on what additional measures individuals in this group can take tailored to each Local COVID Alert Level. The UK Chief Medical Officers have issued a statement on schools and childcare reopening, which states that there is a very low rate of severe disease in children from COVID-19 and far fewer children should remain in this group in the future following their routine discussions with their clinician. In the future, the government will only reintroduce formal restrictive shielding advice in specific local areas at very high alert level with exceptional circumstances where this has been advised by the Chief Medical officer, and then only for a limited period of time. The government will write to families separately to inform them if they are advised to follow formal shielding and not attend school.”
- Furthermore: “All pupils, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, can continue to attend school at all Local COVID Alert Levels unless they are one of the very small numbers of pupils or students under paediatric care (such as recent transplant or very immunosuppressed children) and have been advised specifically by their GP or clinician not to attend school.” A number of previous paragraphs on shielding have now been removed
- Similarly, new information on staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable has been added. It states: “New advice for those identified through a letter from the NHS or a specialist doctor as in the group deemed clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV or shielding list) was published on 13 October. The guidance provides advice on what additional measures individuals in this group can take tailored to each Local COVID Alert Level. “
- Regarding staff who are clinically vulnerable, the guidance now states: “Clinically vulnerable staff can attend school. While in school, they should follow the sector-specific measures in this document to minimise the risks of transmission. This includes taking particular care to observe good hand and respiratory hygiene, minimising contact and maintaining social distancing in line with the provisions set out in section six of the ‘prevention’ section of this guidance. This provides that ideally, adults should maintain 2-metre distance from others, and where this is not possible, avoid close face-to-face contact and minimise time spent within 1-metre of others. While the risk of transmission between young children and adults is likely to be low, adults should continue to take care to socially distance from other adults, including older children/adolescents.”
- The guidance also states that: “People who live with those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable can attend the workplace unless advised otherwise by an individual letter.”
- People who are pregnant: This section has been updated too. It refers to updated guidance from the Royal College of Gynaecologists and what employers should consider when considering risk assessments for staff who are pregnant
- Some updated guidance on recruitment. In the summer, the DfE recommended that schools recruited remotely where possible. The updated guidance says: “As DfE's guidance advises limiting the number of visitors, it may be appropriate for schools to consider a flexible approach to interviews, with alternative options to face-to-face interviews offered where possible.”
- School uniform: Conformation that may wish to consider allowing additional, suitable indoor items of clothing to be worn during the winter period in addition to the school’s current uniform, particularly where increased ventilation creates colder temperatures.
Section three: curriculum, behaviour and pastoral support
- Confirmation that EYFS education and development requirements now apply as the original disapplications have been lifted
- The section on behaviour expectations and exclusions has been updated. This relates mainly to pupils with an education, health and care plan or those who are a looked after child. These reiterate that where a looked after child is at risk of exclusion, the designated teacher should contact the relevant authority’s virtual school head as soon as possible to help the school decide how to help the child and avoid exclusion becoming necessary.
Section five: contingency planning for outbreaks
- A new paragraph has been inserted. This states: “The tiers of restriction for education and childcare, summarised in annex 3 of the Contain Framework and in guidance on higher education, work alongside the Local COVID Alert Level framework. At all Local Alert Levels, the expectation is that education and childcare provision should continue as normal. The government has been very clear that limiting attendance at schools and other education settings should only be done as a last resort, even in areas where a local alert level is ‘high’ or ‘very high’. Decisions on any restrictions necessary in education or childcare settings are taken separately on a case-by-case basis in the light of local circumstances, including information about the incidence and transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19).”
First published 22 October 2020