Schools Told to Plan for More Remote Learning and for Return of Face Masks

The Department for Education (DfE) has instructed schools to be prepared for the reintroduction of face masks in classrooms and for the return of remote learning in case of “local outbreaks of Covid”. The Times Educational Supplement has the story.

In an email bulletin sent to schools this afternoon [by the DfE] they have been told to ensure they have management plans outlining how they would operate if any of the restrictions in the new Contingency Framework document were to be introduced in their area.

The updated framework also sets out how councils and public health directors can make decisions to introduce Covid safety measures at a single school or cluster of schools but where there is a need to address Covid across an entire area decisions will be taken by ministers.

The new framework tells schools to ensure they have plans in place for:

~ Reintroducing asymptomatic testing sites.

~ Reintroducing mask-wearing in communal areas and/or classrooms.

~ Limiting residential visits, open days, transition days and performances.

~ Limiting attendance to primary school pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

~ Limiting attendance secondary school students in Years 10, 11, 12 and 13, as well as vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

The document also says that schools should plan for the reintroduction of shielding but says that a decision to bring this back can only be done by the national Government.

In a daily bulletin sent to schools, the department says: “We have updated the contingency framework following the Government’s announcement on enhanced response packages to tackle the Delta variant in some areas.

“The contingency framework describes the principles of managing local outbreaks of Covid in education and childcare settings. It covers all types of measures that settings should be prepared for, which includes those that may be recommended as part of an enhanced response area.

“All education and childcare settings should have outbreak management plans outlining how they would operate if any of the measures described within the contingency framework were recommended in their area for any reason.

“Secondary schools and colleges should ensure their outbreak management plans cover the possibility that it is advised that face coverings should temporarily be worn more widely in settings in their area and that asymptomatic testing sites (ATS) may be required.”

It also says that additional guidance has been issued to the Directors of Public Health advising that they work in partnership with schools and colleges before reinstating ATS.

Schools had previously been told, earlier this year, that they must not implement any of the Covid containment measures without “explicit agreement” from the DfE but the new framework sets out how this can be done at local level if it only involves a small number of schools.

As we reported earlier today, London councils are also hoping to build “temporary body storage facilities” in the event of an “excess deaths situation”, largely due to concerns about the Indian Delta Covid variant. Just when we should be unlocking, the authorities appear to be gearing up for further restrictions.

The Times Educational Supplement report is worth reading in full.

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