The Department for Education has extended the operation of its coronavirus helpline to weekends and said it is increasing the number of call handlers as it deals with “high volumes of calls”.
In an update sent to schools today, the department apologised for waiting times faced by callers, and said the line would now also be open from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
The DfE is also “increasing the number of call handlers available to answer your calls”, it told leaders.
It comes after headteachers complained of waits of more than an hour and a half as they tried to reach the DfE for guidance on how to respond to the growing crisis.
On hold to the @educationgovuk hotline for an hour and half and the line has just gone dead!!
— Simon Knight (@SimonKnight100) March 17, 2020
“Please note, we are currently experiencing high volumes of calls,” the DfE said in its update.
“We appreciate your patience at this time and apologise for any wait that you may experience. To ensure that we answer your calls as quickly as possible, we have now extended our opening hours to cover weekends and are increasing the number of call handlers available to answer your calls.”
In a separate press statement sent out this week, the DfE announced it had “doubled the number of call handlers in the past week”. However, the department has not given actual numbers for the increase.
The helpline, which is accessed by calling 0800 046 8687, was launched earlier this month, and was originally running from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.