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Overview

This toolkit is for schools, and should be read in conjunction with the 'Local COVID-19 Infection Control Decision Framework for Schools' and 'Children and young people with higher clinical risk and clinically extremely vulnerable adults: guidance for education settings'.

Schools will already have systems in place to regularly review their risk assessments and the interventions in place to address those risks. This toolkit aims to help schools to decide when to consider introducing different interventions. It supports schools to take early action to address changing circumstances, and suggests how current interventions should be reviewed, refined and amended to continue reflecting the latest situation with regards to COVID-19.

Context

Any change to interventions should be proportionate and based on the schools’ context. Where a school has access to local intelligence on infection rates, they may also want to consider this alongside their school’s context. Schools are not expected to work in isolation when making these decisions. We recognise local arrangements may vary, but schools will typically have an identified professional contact within a local authority in relation to COVID-19 interventions, for example the Corporate Health and Safety Team, EHO, or TTP team. Schools should aim to work in partnership with them and other public health officials to review operational arrangements in schools, and this toolkit aims to help support those discussions.

It is important that schools use the Framework to identify changes to operational arrangements, and that these changes address the specific needs and context of a school. This may mean that a uniform approach across all schools within a local authority or region is neither appropriate nor necessary. The introduction of any additional interventions should be time-limited and proportionate, and clear criteria should be set for their review prior to implementation.

Things to consider

The questions below aim to help schools to navigate the process of considering if, as part of their risk assessment process, current interventions should be changed. This is not an exhaustive list, and many schools will already have well-established decision-making procedures in place to steer this process. These questions should not replace such arrangements, but are instead aimed at supplementing the Framework and other guidance and assist schools in their discussions with local authorities and public health officials.

The thresholds below are suggestions of when further interventions should be considered. However it is acceptable for schools to agree proportionate thresholds which differ to those set out below with their local authority or other identified professional contact to take local circumstances into account.

When looking at case numbers, it is important for schools to consider the context and size of their school, and use any intelligence which may be readily available regarding links between cases such as birthday parties, sports clubs etc. when considering changes to interventions. For example:

  • 10 cases of COVID-19 amongst learners within a single class in a secondary school is very different to 10 cases across all 1,000 learners within that same school.
  • 7 cases amongst a Year 9 school hockey team is very different to 7 cases across the entire Year 9 year group.
  • 10 cases amongst a small group who took part in an educational visit is very different to 50 cases across all Key Stage 2 learners.

In determining whether it is proportionate and necessary to introduce additional interventions in place in a school, consideration should also be given to their impact on learner wellbeing and how these might sit alongside interventions in place in the wider community both at a national and a local level at that point. Consideration should also be given as to how additional interventions may impact on any access needs a learner might have, with reasonable adjustments being made as appropriate.

The current situation

  • Are COVID-19 cases amongst staff and learners at your school increasing, decreasing or stable?
  • If cases are increasing or stable, have you reached any of the following thresholds?
    • 5 learners or staff, who are likely to have mixed closely, test positive for COVID-19 within a 10-day period.
    • 10% of learners or staff who are likely to have mixed closely test positive for COVID-19 within a 10-day period.
    • For special schools, residential settings, and settings that operate with 20 or fewer learners and staff at any one time, 2 learners and staff, who are likely to have mixed closely, test positive for COVID-19 within a 10-day period.
  • Has there been a marked reduction in school attendance over the past 21-day period?

Reviewing what is already in place

  • Have you already implemented additional interventions over and above the core interventions and the tailored interventions for the low risk level as set out in the Framework? Before introducing additional or enhanced interventions, schools should look at existing interventions and consider how they are working.
  • If additional interventions have been introduced, did you notice that they have had a positive impact on education provision and management of COVID-19 across the school?
  • What is the current level of adherence to existing interventions, and what can be done to improve this position? This could include:
    • specific or targeted communications e.g. text messages to all parents and guardians reminding secondary-aged learners to use LFDs regularly and to make use of those tests before attending school
    • a targeted campaign focusing on increasing use of LFD tests by staff and/or secondary-aged learners
    • additional signage to encourage regular handwashing
    • reminding secondary-aged learners that face coverings should be used on school transport
    • inclusion of a reminder in school newsletters that those with symptoms should not attend school and arrange a test
    • considering how congestion at any ‘pinch points’ on the school site may be eased

Introducing additional or enhanced interventions

  • Use the Framework to consider how additional or enhanced interventions can be introduced.
  • If you have exceeded the thresholds above and are considering introducing additional or enhanced interventions, you should prioritise any remaining interventions at the Framework risk level which you are currently operating. Depending on your context/circumstances, you may also wish to consider introducing interventions from the next level above that (unless currently operating at Very High risk level).
  • Equally, if you have not met the thresholds above, you should consider whether the interventions from your current risk level which are in place in your school remain relevant (unless you are currently in the Low risk level, in which case those measures should remain in place). 
  • When looking to increase interventions, you may not need to introduce the full raft of interventions for a particular risk level as set out in the Framework;  some interventions may be in place for a very limited period, for example introduction of use of face coverings in the classroom for a set period.
  • If you plan to introduce further interventions:
    • consider local advice and who needs to be involved in deciding if changes are needed?
    • consider if they may negatively impact any learners and, if so, how can reasonable adjustments be made to mitigate these impacts?
    • when will this decision be reviewed to consider if these interventions should remain in place or be removed?
    • what criteria will be used to decide if these changes should remain in place or if they should be reconsidered?
    • how will these changes be communicated to learners, parents/guardians, staff and other stakeholders?

The flow chart summarises a three-stage approach to this process.

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