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Operational guidance for schools

Covid Vaccination for 12-15 year olds (15 September)

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has accepted the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officers on Covid vaccinations for 12-15 year olds. The CMO’s had been asked to consider the broader benefits of vaccinating this age group including the potential disruption to pupils’ education. In their advice the CMO’s, “recommend on public health grounds that ministers extend the offer of universal vaccination with a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to all children and young people aged 12 to 15 not already covered by existing JCVI advice”.

The Department of Health press release says:

“the NHS is preparing to deliver a schools-based vaccination programme, which is the successful model used for vaccinations including for HPV and Diphtheria…”

“Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff prior to vaccination in line with existing school vaccination programmes”.

Guidance material has now been published for schools, alongside template consent forms. The guidance makes clear that it will be the school age immunisation teams who come into schools who would be responsible for resolving any issues around consent, including disagreements between pupils and their parents.

An advisory note from Harrison Clark Rickerbys can be read here.

Schools COVID-19 operational guidance (update August 2021)

The ‘Tracing close contacts and isolation’ section of the guidance has been updated to reflect a new legal position from 16 August. It reads:

“Individuals are not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, and any of the following apply:
- they are fully vaccinated
- they are below the age of 18 years and six months
- they have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
- they are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons.

“Instead, they 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.”

Contingency framework for education and childcare settings (August 2021)

The framework has been comprehensively updated to reflect changed government guidelines and in preparation for the new term. All settings should have contingency plans (or ‘outbreak management plans’) and should keep these up-to-date. The overarching objective is to maximise the number of children and young people in face-to-face education or childcare and minimise any disruption, in a way that best manages the COVID-19 risk.

  • There are new threshold limits for schools to take extra preventative action and/or to seek public health advice. These limits are discretionary, but advised. For most schools, the threshold is five pupils or staff (or 10%, whichever is smaller), who have likely mixed closely, testing positive within a 10 day period. For special, and residential, schools this is two pupils.
  • These thresholds may be higher than above in areas of generally high incidence – directors of public health, and/or health protection teams can clarify this when schools contact them.
  • The guidance details additional measures which settings should plan for in their contingency planning, including increased testing, face coverings in communal areas and/or classrooms, and the possibility that national government may resume shielding.
  • There is also an annex providing advice and examples on definitions such as ‘mixing closely’ and explaining which additional actions may be advised by directors of public health in the case of an outbreak (to allow schools to pre-emptively consider how these could be implemented).

JCVI recommendations on vaccinating children (19 July 2021)

The government has accepted the JCVI’s recommendations on vaccinating children and young people under the age of 18. The JCVI is advising that children at increased risk of serious COVID-19 disease are offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Full details can be found here.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - guidance for autumn term (7 July 2021 update)

The DfE has published updated COVID guidance for schools which will apply from Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown, which is expected to take place on 19 July.

In line with the Government’s approach to wider society, the guidance relaxes current COVID restrictions. Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "The measures we will have after summer strike the right balance as we learn to live with the virus so children can get on with their lives and education in the best possible way."

While most independent schools will have broken up by 19 July, schools will be able to implement the new measures for the autumn term.

Please see links to:

-Full DfE guidance
-DfE press release
-Q&A blog.

The key measures set out in the revised guidance are:

Bubbles will come to an end, with the guidance saying it will no longer be "necessary to keep children in consistent groups (‘bubbles’)". This will allow for a more normal school day, with the guidance explaining that "assemblies can resume" and that schools "no longer need to make alternative arrangements to avoid mixing at lunch".

From Step 4, NHS Test and Trace will be responsible for contact tracing - not schools. The current self-isolation rules for close contacts of a positive case will come to an end. From 16 August, the guidance says that "children under the age of 18 years old will no longer be required to self-isolate". Instead, primary and secondary school children identified as close contacts will be advised to take a PCR test.

Face coverings will no longer be advised for pupils, staff and visitors, either in classrooms or in communal areas.

The proposed system for asymptomatic testing will be as follows (quotes from the guidance):

-"Over the summer, staff and secondary pupils should continue to test regularly if they are attending settings that remain open, such as summer schools and out of school activities based in school settings."
-"As pupils will potentially mix with lots of other people during the summer holidays, all secondary school pupils should receive two on-site lateral flow device tests, three to five days apart, on their return in the autumn term. Settings may commence testing from three working days before the start of term and can stagger return of pupils across the first week to manage this."
-"Pupils should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when this will be reviewed."
-"Staff should undertake twice-weekly home tests whenever they are on-site until the end of September, when this will also be reviewed."

Schools are advised to retain their capacity for remote education for those pupils unable to attend school due to COVID-19.

On inspections, the guidance says: "For independent schools (other than academies), it is intended that both inspectorates will return to a full programme of routine inspections from September 2021 and they will complete the current cycle of standard inspections - which was delayed by the pandemic - in 2022."

While measures are being loosened, the guidance advises schools to have an outbreak management plan setting out steps to be taken if there is an outbreak at the school or within the local area. Plans should cover the possibility of bubbles or face masks being reintroduced temporarily.

Summer and autumn testing arrangements

Update from the DfE on Covid testing of staff and pupils: 'We want to update you on plans for testing over the summer and into the autumn so you have sufficient time to plan ahead of the summer break.

We are confirming that regular asymptomatic rapid testing will stay in place until the end of the summer term. Thank you for all your efforts to encourage students and staff to test themselves twice a week at home – please do continue to do this in these last few weeks of term.

Regular testing will pause in education settings over the summer except for in those that remain open such as summer schools, out of school settings and those that do not operate on a term-time basis. In these cases, only those attending should continue to test regularly. However, testing is still widely available and kits can be collected either from your local pharmacy or ordered online.

Please use the online re-ordering platform to place orders for further test kits after reviewing your stock levels to enable testing over the summer holiday period, if your setting remains open (for example Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) nurseries, Independent Training Providers (ITPs) and Adult Community Learning provider (ACLPs).

The guidance for children in year 6 and below remains the same and we will not be advising them to test. This includes year 6 pupils attending transition days or summer schools over the summer break. We want to help education settings to be prepared for all scenarios, including testing on return after the summer holidays. We will provide all schools and colleges with refreshed guidance, test kits, and PPE so that you can be ready to stand up on-site Asymptomatic Test Sites (ATS) from the start of the autumn term. We expect to be able to confirm the position alongside announcements on Step 4.

Given the uncertainties about the Covid situation we will face in the autumn, we want to help secondary schools and colleges to be as prepared as possible for all scenarios, including testing on return after the summer holidays, if needed. Schools and colleges may choose to start testing students and pupils no earlier than three days before the start of term, or stagger the return of pupils during the first week of term if they would like to do so. This is voluntary and at the discretion of each school and college.

Test kits for ATS will be delivered from Tuesday 29 June to Friday 23 July. There is no need for you to make separate orders for this. Information on delivery schedules and refreshed guidance is now available on the school and college document sharing platform. If you do not have access to this, please contact the DfE helpline on 0800 046 8687.'