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Changes to learning and teaching in schools.

First published:
14 July 2020
Last updated:

School operations

What measures are in place to ensure schools are safe for learners and staff?

The Public health advice for schools: coronavirus offers flexibility to determine what is required to manage risks

Within the advice, it is recognised that COVID-19 has not gone away and will remain with us globally. For this reason, it remains important for schools and settings to consider what they can do to reduce the spread of the virus, and protect their learners and staff, including any additional protections for those who are more vulnerable. By continuing to implement public health control measures, schools and settings will help keep the spread of the virus low, improve public and staff confidence and minimise the potential of further disruption.

With increasing numbers of people vaccinated and everyone’s continued efforts the risks from coronavirus should now be considered in the same context as other communicable diseases risks (for example flu and norovirus).

Can my child attend school if they have a cold?

If a child has mild cold-like symptoms, they should continue to go to school, if fit to do so.

The three main symptoms of COVID-19 to be aware of are:

  • a new continuous cough
  • fever or high temperature
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste

If your child develops one of these symptoms they should follow the self-isolation guidance and should take a test.

We no longer recommend that children under 5 years of age take COVID-19 tests without symptoms. Where children under 5 do have symptoms we would not routinely recommend tests unless directed to do so by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of the child.

What support is available for the education workforce?

Support is available for the education workforce through the Education Support Partnership (ESP), a charity dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of education staff.

ESP has been developing digital resources to provide support to education staff during these very challenging times. These have been based on the key themes of anxiety, grief and isolation. 

Confidential emotional support is also available via the ESP 24/7. Call their counselling helpline on 08000 562561 or visit the ESP website. The ESP can also provide financial assistance through its grants service.

What measures are in place for pregnant staff?

We need to take a precautionary approach in relation to long COVID in pregnancy and undertake individual risk assessments and ensure that both the employer and pregnant mother are content; research has shown that there is a risk is from 26 weeks. Because COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, an effect is that it can make you hypoxic. This could harm the baby and make it extremely difficult for the mother to go through either natural birth or have an anaesthetic. We cannot overemphasize the importance of vaccination to protect mothers and babies.

Risk assessments must be undertaken on anyone that is 26+ pregnant and both the employer and member of staff must be happy with the outcome.

We understand that this measure will lead to additional pressure for employers. However, consideration should be given to alternative roles that can be undertaken or working from home.  Any issues in relation to funding for staff who are unable to attend work should be directed to the local authority.

Where staff are providing individual or group support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), can schools reconfigure the schedule of support to minimise close interactions between individuals?

The statutory duties and obligations of local authorities and schools relating to SEN remain unchanged and in force, including the duty to arrange provision as set out in a statement. This will remain the case when the implementation of the ALN Act begins, as children with statements are not transitioning to the ALN system in the first year of implementation.

In line with previous guidance we would encourage a practical and flexible approach to ensure individual needs are met. This should be considered as part of any risk assessment. For example, timetabling and scheduling one to one support over a longer cycle, in order to maintain overall levels of support whilst minimising close interactions between individuals may be appropriate.

Whilst schools are not advised to maintain contact groups from September onwards, we acknowledge that some schools may wish to tailor provision for some pupils with special educational needs as a result of specific health needs identified as part of the risk assessment process.

Schools should continue to consult parents and carers about specific support needs, and use their discretion flexibly in agreeing the way forward for specific learners.

Who should I inform if I or my child has displayed symptoms of COVID-19? 

Children displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should remain at home, and parents are advised to arrange a test for them. Guidance on further steps to be taken is available.

Children are not required to provide evidence of any negative test on return to school.

We no longer recommend that children under 5 years of age take COVID-19 tests without symptoms. Where children under 5 do have symptoms we would not routinely recommend tests unless directed to do so by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of the child.

My child is under five years old and has symptoms, what do I do?

If your child has any of the main COVID-19 symptoms they should not attend school or childcare. They should only attend school or childcare when their symptoms have resolved. 

If your doctor advises it or you feel it is completely necessary for your child order a PCR test online or by calling 119.

Will teachers and other staff who need to self-isolate still be paid and able to work from home?

If teachers or other staff members are unable to go to work as they are self-isolating, they should speak with their employer and agree reasonable arrangements for homeworking, if they are able to do so. Teachers and other staff unable to attend work will be paid as normal.

What if I am identified as a contact but have an exam?

If you have been identified as a contact to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you should follow the guidance for close contacts. If your test result is positive you should self-isolate as set out in the national guidance. If you think this may impact on your ability to sit your exam please contact your school or college to make the necessary arrangements.

What if I test positive for coronavirus and have an exam?

An exemption has been drawn up for those pupils who have recently tested positive but feel well enough to sit their exam. Learners who are due to sit an exam can start testing on day three and four of their isolation period. If both tests are negative and they feel well enough they are able to sit their exam from day four of testing positive. Further information on exams is available.

How should schools balance maintaining adequate ventilation with ensuring people are warm?

Providing adequate ventilation does not mean people have to work in an uncomfortably cold place. There are simple steps you can take to make sure classrooms are adequately ventilated without being too cold.

  • Partially opening windows and doors can still provide adequate ventilation.
  • Open higher-level windows to create fewer draughts.
  • If the area is cold, relax dress codes so people can wear extra layers and warmer clothing.
  • Set the heating to maintain a comfortable temperature even when windows and doors are partially open.
  • Consider providing additional sources of heating if required. Only use fan convector heaters if the area is well ventilated.

You can also regularly air the space in rooms that rely on natural ventilation, by opening windows and doors as fully as possible. For example, you can do this when pupils leave for a break. Even 10 minutes an hour can help reduce the risk from virus in the air, depending on the size of the room.

School contact tracing

My child has been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID, can they attend school or childcare?

Yes, your child can still attend school or childcare. However, we ask that you should be vigilant for the main symptoms of COVID-19. Further advice for those identified as close contacts is available.

What is the contact tracing process for individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable?

Guidance for individuals including children, who are clinically extremely vulnerable to developing serious illness if they are exposed to coronavirus because they have a particular serious underlying health condition is available.

For children and young people who require additional support – such as children with a statement of special educational needs or who have additional learning needs or disabilities – schools and settings should continue to work with the local authority as well as with parents to decide how best to continue supporting these children to stay healthy.

Am I required to self-isolate if I am identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus if I work with vulnerable learners?

All staff working in education settings who work in close proximity to learners with increased clinical risks, can undertake return to work testing. Criteria for staff to return will be set out in a checklist risk assessment tool which will be circulated to settings directly.

Testing will consist of one PCR test followed by daily lateral flow tests until 7 days has passed since the individual was informed of their contact with the confirmed case or 7 days from when a household member was confirmed positive.

What advice does warn and inform cover?

The warn and inform approach reinforces key messages about the risk to others from COVID-19 and what can be done to minimise this risk, e.g. by remaining vigilant for new symptoms, having a low threshold for seeking a test even with mild symptoms, and avoiding contact with vulnerable family and friends in the short-term (such as elderly relatives or those who are higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection).

Teaching and learning

What are the longer-term plans to help deal with the attainment and learning gap due to the pandemic and to help learners catch up?

The renew and reform plan, published in June 2021, outlines our commitment to supporting learners’ wellbeing and progression in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been supported by £278 million in the 2021 to 2022 financial year.

Renew and Reform has provided support for all learners by building system capacity through Recruit, Recover, and Raise Standards (RRRS), which has recruited and retained 1,800 full-time equivalent staff. It has also provided targeted funding allocations to support the early years; vulnerable and disadvantaged learners; and learners in post-16 and transition years.

The plan confirms our commitment to learner and practitioner well-being and mental health; supporting learners to make the progress they need; and addressing the educational impacts of inequality which have been highlighted by the pandemic. Strengthening the foundations of learning as we move forward to the next steps in our national mission.

Face coverings

What are the changes to guidance on use of face coverings in schools?

From 09 May 2022 it is no longer a requirement for staff, pupils or visitors to wear face coverings anywhere on the school grounds.

However, we understand that the public health context will change over time and may vary regionally and locally. Schools and settings should therefore continue to tailor interventions to reflect local risks and circumstances.

The escalation of any measures should be proportionate and aligned with what is happening in wider society. Prior to the introduction of additional measures, schools and settings should agree what criteria should be used to determine under which conditions they will be removed. Schools and settings should consider arrangements for everyone using the school or setting site. This includes staff, learners and visitors.

Vaccinations

Where can I find information on vaccinations?

In Wales, we are working to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority schedule.

The JCVI is the expert body that advises all four UK governments, and the priority schedule of vaccination we are working to is the same as the schedule for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Further information and updates on our vaccination strategy are available.