- At 8.59am today the DFE published new Schools COVID-19 operational guidance. The file title is ‘Schools Guidance update for Omicron 29 Nov’.
- Updated guidance on contact tracing and isolation, travel and quarantine, face coverings and vaccination of under 18 year olds to reflect new measures announced on 27 November 2021.
- In the Overview section the DfE state – ‘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.’
- The changes from the guidance on 27 September 2021 are as follows:-
- updated advice on Tracing close contacts and isolation to reflect the change in measures for close contacts of suspected or confirmed Omicron cases
- updated advice on Face coverings to reflect the change in measures – they are now recommended in communal areas in all schools for adults and for pupils from year 7 onwards.
- replacement of references to Public Health England with references to the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
- updated information in the Other considerations section on vaccination of under 18 year olds.
- an updated Travel and quarantine section to reflect that pupils arriving from abroad will need to isolate and test on arrival.
- an updated Educational visits section to advise you consider whether to go ahead with any planned international educational visits.
- 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.’
- The re-introduction of ‘bubbles is not recommended.
Tracing close contacts and isolation
- All individuals who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, irrespective of vaccination status and age, will be contacted directly and required to self-isolate immediately and asked to book a PCR test. They will be informed by the local health protection team or NHS Test and Trace if they fall into this category and provided details about self-isolation.
- Further actions for educational settings may be advised by a local Incident Management Team (IMT) investigating a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Settings no longer required to do contact tracing.
- Where pupils in year 7 (which would be children who were aged 11 on 31 August 2021) and above are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by pupils, staff and adult visitors when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas. This is a temporary measure. Pupils in these schools should also wear a face covering when travelling on public transport and dedicated transport to and from school. We do not advise that pupils and staff wear face coverings in classrooms.
- In primary schools, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and adults (including visitors) when moving around in corridors and communal areas. Health advice continues to be that children in primary schools should not be asked to wear face coverings.
Travel and quarantine
- All travellers arriving into the UK will need to isolate and get a PCR test by ‘day two’ after arrival. They may end their isolation once they receive a negative result. If the result is positive, they should continue to isolate and follow rules on isolation following a positive test. Unvaccinated arrivals aged over 18 will follow the existing, more onerous, testing and isolation regime. All Red list arrivals will enter quarantine.
- Parents travelling abroad should bear in mind the impact on their child’s education which may result from any requirement to quarantine or isolate upon return.
School workforce (no change)
The new guidance contains no changes to the School Workforce section. The full guidance is:-
School leaders are best placed to determine the workforce required to meet the needs of their pupils.
Social distancing measures ended in the workplace on 19 July and the government is not advising people to work from home.
The shielding programme has now come to an end and adults previously considered CEV should, as a minimum, continue to follow the same guidance as everyone else. It is important that everyone adheres to this guidance but people previously considered CEV may wish to consider taking extra precautions.
Employers should be able to explain the measures they have in place to keep staff safe at work. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers, including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplace.
The general coronavirus guidance starts here:-