- On 6 July 2021 the DfE published new guidance Schools COVID-19 operational guidance which applies from Step 4, 19th July 2021.
- Risk assessment remains key – ‘You must comply with health and safety law and put in place proportionate control measures. You must regularly review and update your risk assessments – treating them as ‘living documents’, as the circumstances in your school and the public health advice changes.’
- Bubbles are no longer necessary or recommended and this includes summer school, although ‘If your school is still open at Step 4, you may wish to continue with these measures until the end of your summer term.’
- Face coverings no longer required in classrooms or communal areas, unless there is an outbreak.
Tracing close contacts and isolation
- Settings no longer required to do contact tracing.
- From Step 4, close contacts will be identified via NHS Test and Trace
- As with positive cases in any other setting, NHS Test and Trace will work with the positive case to identify close contacts. Contacts from a school setting will only be traced by NHS Test and Trace where the positive case specifically identifies the individual as being a close contact. This is likely to be a small number of individuals who would be most at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of the close contact.
- From 16 August 2021, children under the age of 18 years old will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case. Instead, children will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace, informed they have been in close contact with a positive case and advised to take a PCR test.
- 18-year-olds will be treated in the same way as children until 4 months after their 18th birthday, to allow them the opportunity to get fully vaccinated. At which point, they will be subject to the same rules as adults and so if they choose not to get vaccinated, they will need to self-isolate if identified as a close contact.
The new guidance gives little detail on staffing issues and states the further guidance will be published before Step 4. The full guidance is:-
School leaders are best placed to determine the workforce required to meet the needs of
Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people are no longer advised to shield but may wish to take extra precautions to protect themselves, and to follow the practical steps set out in the CEV guidance to minimise their risk of exposure to the virus.
Staff in schools who are CEV should currently attend their place of work if they cannot work from home. DHSC will publish updated guidance before Step 4. We welcome your support in encouraging vaccine take up and enabling staff who are eligible for a vaccination to attend booked vaccine appointments where possible even during term time.
The requirement to self-isolate does not apply if an individual has been fully vaccinated. Unlike care homes (and possibly NHS workers), there is no legal requirement on an individual to be vaccinated and this is not something an employer in the education sector can insist on.
Therefore, if a non-vaccinated employee is a close contact and is required to self-isolate, the current position is that the absence would be deemed sickness absence, as it is now. The option to work from home would also be available.
Certainly, not ideal but we await the further guidance.
Also, worth noting that there is no legal requirement to self-isolate if an individual is ‘pinged’ via the NHS app. While self-isolation is recommended, it is only required if the individual is contacted by Test and Trace. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 state:-
2.— (1) This regulation applies where an adult is notified, other than by means of the NHS Covid 19 smartphone app developed and operated by the Secretary of State, by a person specified in paragraph (4) that—
(a) they have—
(i) tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (“coronavirus”) pursuant to a test after 28th September 2020, or
(ii) had close contact after 28th September 2020 with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus;
Holiday email to staff – update
We have updated our email to staff regarding holidays, in accordance with the latest travel guidance. To download the document please click HERE.
The general coronavirus guidance starts here:-