Schools can take inset day on Dec 18 so contact tracing stops by Christmas Eve

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the NEU had 'misinterpreted' DfE guidance on RAAC

Schools will be allowed to designate December 18 as an inset day to enable staff involved in track and trace to have a “proper break” from Christmas Eve, the schools minister has said.

Nick Gibb told the Parliamentary education committee this morning that the Department for Education wanted there to be a “clear six days” after schools break up so that contact tracing does not continue into the festive days.

Schools Week revealed last week that schools had been warned by councils they would effectively be “on-call” until Christmas Eve to assist with contact tracing.

Leaders have been waiting for the government to confirm how far into the holidays they’ll be expected to respond to track and trace issues, but no guidance has been forthcoming.

But Gibb revealed this morning that more information will be set out “later today”.

“We want there to be a clear six days so that by the time we reach Christmas Eve, staff can have a proper break without having to engage with the track and trace issues,” he said.

“So we are about to announce that inset days can be used on that Friday, December 18, even if an inset day had not been originally scheduled for that day. It will mean there will be one less inset day in 2021 that might have been scheduled. But that helps them deliver those six days, and we’ll be saying more about that later today.”

He said he acknowledged the “huge stress” school staff have been under, adding: “I don’t think some of the senior leadership teams of schools have had a break at all since the pandemic began.”

The DfE has reportedly said that for a child or staff member who tests positive for Covid, but has not been in school in the time period two days before the onset of symptoms to 10 days after, there will be “no requirement for any contact tracing to be carried out with the school”.

But this doesn’t take account of pupils or staff who might exhibit symptoms within two days of leaving school but not get a positive test back for several days after that.

Gibb’s comments come after the DfE refused an academy trust permission to run two inset days at the end of term.

The proposal had been put forward by Focus Trust as a potential measure to “safeguard the wellbeing of staff and pupils and protect precious family time together” over the festive break.

But the trust U-turned on its intention to close early after being threatened with intervention by the DfE.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL leaders’ union, said he had hoped for more flexibility, and criticised the government for taking so long to make a decision.

“A single day is better than nothing, but it still means that school and college leaders will have to continue contact tracing in the event of positive cases through to Wednesday December 23.

“It also leaves them responsible, at very short notice, for informing families that they will need to self-isolate over the Christmas period.”

Paul Whiteman, who leads the NAHT union, added that some families and schools “will still regard this as insufficient to meet their needs, and it may still force some hasty reorganisation of activities in the last week of term, which could have been avoided if the government had been more proactive”.

“A chaotic and disruptive end of term is still possible, especially in areas where there are large numbers of Covid cases and high levels of staff and pupil absence already.”

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  1. Rebecca Ibbotson

    Yes think would be such a good idea. Having cases in our schools bubbles shutting or whole year group.
    Also being understaffed where we have to interact into other bubbles as schools cannot function otherwise.
    I would personally feel very upset not able to see my family whilst being on the front line.

  2. Richard Whitelaw

    You could argue this is just another kak-handed attempt at managing conflicting agendas and requirements by the DFE; but actually? It’s further evidence of the shambolic lack of leadership from Gavin “Whip Me” Williamson who clearly just gets shuttled backwards and forwards by either Treasury or the Policy Unit at no.10. The lack of political nous and ability to lead for the sector you’re the SoS for is just pathetic. You have to feel for the Trust who was splashed across the pages two weeks ago when the RSC felt it necessary to intervene – what a joke.

  3. Gary Phillips

    I am struggling here

    As a HT I can take 5 CPD/INSET days whenever the Governing Body agrees. WE always could take a a CPD/INSET day on 18/12. It is not an extra CPD/INSET day

    The announcement from the government is awful because most families now expect a CPD Day meaning if we if we choose to open we will have low atttendance which will be made worse by elder siblings staying at home supporting families with childcare

    I suspect the government may next announce we can use paper for writing and chairs for sitting on.


  4. Lorraine

    The schools should be allowed to close at least 1 day earlier for everyone. Government needs to recognise how exhausted teachers are and let them have one miserly day off. If Kids can be off so should staff bexallowed to have the day off

  5. Paul McLean

    It’s absolutely crazy. It’s basically a PD day with no notice. It hardly makes anything safer. There justification for doing it is so that senior leaders don’t need to track and trace on Christmas Day. (We have a statutory duty to report for six days after we were last in) however they’ve made things much worse for headteachers. Staff are now expecting the day off. It looks unsupportive if you don’t let them have it. If you stay open then some staff don’t have childcare. But shutting doesn’t really change the risk and is a complete waste of a PD day but yet for staff who are anxious then this will only serve to heighten their anxieties. Not to mention the parents who have already been told term dates and whose children have already missed numerous days at school. Do the people who make these decisions have any idea what goes on on the ground or do they sit round a table and think “yeah that sounds like a good idea” without any actual idea of the reality?