DfE finally reveals Christmas contact-tracing rules

Schools will be asked to remain “on call” for the first six days of the Christmas holidays to help with contact tracing, but it will be up to them to decide the hours they’ll be contactable.

The Department for Education has confirmed arrangements for the end of term after schools minister Nick Gibb said today schools would need to help with test and trace at the beginning of the break.

Where a schools last teaching day is on Thursday December 17, there should be no pupil contact tracing asks beyond Wednesday December 23

In an email to heads, seen by Schools Week, the government said Public Health England had “agreed a 6 day window after the final day of teaching in which schools and further education providers are asked to remain contactable so they can assist with contact tracing where necessary”.

For those first six days, schools will be asked to assist with contact tracing where a pupil or staffmember tests positive. This is because the individual “may have been infectious whilst in school”, the DfE said.

However, schools will not be asked to be on-call at all times. Staff responsible for contact tracing “may designate a limited period in the day to receive notification of positive cases and advise close contacts to self-isolate”, and this “can be done by text or email”.

Where pupils are required to self-isolate due to contact with a positive case after the first six days following the end of term, schools “do not need to be informed about their absence until the first day of the new term”.

According to the DfE, the six-day period will allow enough time for positive cases to be identified and confirmed by a test.

Beyond the six days, school staff will not be asked to play a role “in any contact tracing”.

The guidance also states that schools “may wish to use an inset day” for staff training on December 18. This training could be delivered online, the DfE suggests

And schools due to finish the following week “may wish to consider adjusting term dates to make Friday December 18 the last day of term”, which could also be an inset day, and then bring forward the start of term in January “by the same number of days”.

“Where a schools last teaching day is on Thursday December 17, there should be no pupil contact tracing asks beyond Wednesday December 23.”

The guidance states that in all circumstances, teaching time “must be made up at another point in the academic year”, and schools “should not limit attendance at school before Friday December 18”.

“We recognise this communication has arrived with schools late in the term but would ask schools to be as helpful to parents as they can by sharing any changes to end of term arrangements as soon as possible, particularly where schools choose to make Friday December 18 a non-teaching day. Your support with this is appreciated.”

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