The DfE has published a new version of the Academies Financial Handbook for 2021, rebranded the Academy Trust Handbook.

Schools will fully close over the February half term, the government has confirmed today, but staff will be on call for contact tracing.

In an email to schools today, seen by Schools Week, the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed schools will “close as usual” during next month’s half-term.

Where schools can, staff assuming responsibility for contact tracing can be offered equivalent time off at an agreed point during term time

Schools are not expected to remain open to vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, as happened in last year’s lockdown.

But staff will have to be on-call during the holidays for contact tracing purposes.

The email read: “We recognise the challenges of this responsibility during holidays. Given limited numbers on-site, we expect contact tracing activity to be reduced but this remains vitally important in the continued national effort to limit the spread of the virus.”

If pupils or staff test positive, having developed symptoms more than 48 hours since being in school, then schools aren’t required to take any action.

However where symptoms were developed within 48 hours, the school is “asked to assist in identifying close contacts and advising self-isolation, as the individual may have been infectious whilst in school”.

Staff are not “asked to be on-call at all times and may designate a limited period in the day to receive notification of positive cases”, the email added.

“Where schools can do so, staff assuming responsibility for contact tracing during half-term can be offered equivalent time off at an agreed point during term time.”

The Department for Education coronavirus helpline and the PHE Advice Service will remain open over the February half-term. Schools don’t have to run Covid testing over the half-term.