New local lockdowns guidance: What schools need to know

Ministers have finally published guidance for schools on how to plan for potential local lockdowns, just days before many schools welcome their pupils back.

The guidance sets out what schools must do in response to different “tiers” of local lockdown.

Here’s what schools need to know.


1. There are four ‘tiers’ of action

Tier 1

Schools will remain open to all pupils but with a requirement that face coverings be worn in corridors and other communal areas of secondary schools where social distancing cannot take place.

Tier 2

Primary, AP and special schools will remain open to all pupils, but secondary schools will move to a rota model, combining “on-site provision with remote education”.

Secondary schools will continue to allow full-time attendance for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, with all other pupils subject to a rota. Further education providers should adopt “similar principles with discretion to decide on a model that limits numbers on site but works for each individual setting”.

The face coverings requirement will also be in place in secondary schools and colleges.

Tier 3

Primary, AP and special schools will remain open to all pupils, but secondary schools and FE colleges will allow full-time on-site provision only to vulnerable pupils, the children of critical workers and selected year groups which will be identified by the DfE.

All other pupils will stay at home and be provided with remote education.

The face coverings requirement will also be in place in secondary schools and colleges.

Tier 4

All mainstream schools and colleges will only allow full-time attendance to vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, with all other pupils staying home and receiving remote education.

AP and special schools will continue to allow full-time attendance of all pupils.

The face coverings requirement will also be in place in secondary schools and colleges.


2. DfE proposes ‘2 weeks on 2 weeks off’ rota system

For secondary schools and colleges in “tier 2” areas, the DfE said they “should ideally operate” a rota system that means pupils alternate spending two weeks on-site followed by two weeks at home. In terms of number of days this would mean 10 days on site, with a weekend in the middle, followed by 16 days at home.

However, schools “can choose” to operate a one-week-on, one-week-off rota, “if this is necessary for the effective delivery of the curriculum”.

This would mean pupils would be on site for five days and then at home for nine.

This “should still allow time for symptoms to present in the vast majority of cases”, the DfE said.

Rota lengths “should not be any shorter than one week as this does not provide sufficient time off-site for symptoms to present”.

“Schools should plan to utilise time over the weekend effectively in order to prepare for a different rota group at the start of the week.”


3. Rota groups should be based on ‘bubbles’

Schools should plan so that rota groups consist of “bubbles” that avoid mixing with one another.

They should also place pupils likely to come into contact outside school in the same rota group to avoid mixing “where practical”. These could include pupils from the same household or local area.

Different rota groups can use the same classrooms and facilities, but schools “should ensure cleaning of frequently touched surfaces takes place in between use by different rota groups, in addition to enhanced cleaning arrangements already in place”.

Vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers “should be integrated into rota groups, even if they continue to remain on-site during weeks their rota group is scheduled to be at home”.

Middle schools, which have some primary age year-groups and some secondary age, should adopt different approaches for different pupils.

Primary year groups “should be attending full-time during a tier 2 intervention and avoid mixing with the secondary year groups operating a rota system”, the DfE said.


4. Staff can operate across rota groups

The DfE has said that teachers and other staff can operate across different rota groups and bubbles, but that schools should support staff “to keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can”.

Staff will “ideally” keep two metres from other adults, and “where this is not possible avoiding close face to face contact and minimising time spent within one metre of others, as set out in the full opening guidance”.

In secondary schools in areas of government intervention, face coverings “should be worn by staff in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain”. However, it will “not usually be necessary to wear face coverings in the classroom, where protective measures already mean the risks are lower, and they may inhibit teaching and education”.


5. Self-isolating pupils must stay home

Pupils should not return to on-site provision if they are self-isolating, “even if their rota group is scheduled to be at school that week”.

Parents and carers “should still inform the school as soon as possible if a pupil tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)”, and local health protection teams will advise on implications for schools.


6. More guidance on shielding staff

Shielding requirements for clinically extremely vulnerable staff were lifted earlier in the summer.

The DfE said it was “unlikely that formal shielding will be reintroduced in a local area”, and said clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people “should be able to attend school during local restrictions”.

However, “in the event that shielding is resumed within the local areas, clinically extremely vulnerable children will not be required to attend school”.


7. Provide food parcels for FSM children

If pupils in receipt of means-tested free school meals are spending time at home, schools “should continue to provide free school meals”, the DfE said.

Schools should work with suppliers “to prepare meals or food parcels to be collected by, or delivered to, eligible children during their time at home”.

“Any parcels should be distributed in line with guidance on social distancing and local restrictions and should meet the school food standards.”

The DfE said it would update guidance on the provision of meals “shortly”.


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