21 February – Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Update to all education and childcare settings and provider
FAO: All Schools / All Phases
This is your email to keep you updated on the government’s response to COVID-19. If you have colleagues who would like to receive this email directly, please ask them to use this subscription form.
Today’s email includes:
Prime Minister’s announcement on the Living with COVID-19 plan
Today the Prime Minister has set out the next phase of the government’s COVID-19 response ‘Living with COVID-19’. COVID-19 continues to be a virus that we learn to live with and the imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education remains.
Further information on what this means for education and childcare settings and children’s social care services is below.
Changes to testing in education and childcare settings and children’s social care services
From today, Monday 21 February, the Government is removing the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice-weekly asymptomatic testing.
Given we now know that the risks of severe illness from COVID-19 in most children and most fully vaccinated adults are very low, and our successful vaccination programme has achieved a high rate of take-up, we can remove this advice, bringing education into line with wider society.
Staff and students of secondary age and above in SEND settings, alternative provision settings, and SEND units within mainstream settings or equivalent in further education colleges are advised to continue twice-weekly testing. Staff in residential units in children’s social care (open and secure children’s homes) and children of secondary age and above in open children’s homes are also advised to continue twice-weekly testing. Children and young people arriving in secure children’s homes should test on arrival.
The education testing delivery channels will remain open so that staff and students of secondary age and above can access tests if needed to respond to local public health advice, in particular in relation to outbreaks. Staff and students are also able to access test kits from their local pharmacy or online.
If you are due to receive a delivery of test kits during this week you will receive a separate communication in relation to this.
For more information, please visit our frequently asked questions on the document sharing platform.
Changes to self-isolation and daily testing of close contacts
From Thursday 24 February, the Government will remove the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test. Adults and children who test positive will continue to be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 5 full days, and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received 2 negative test results on consecutive days. In addition, the Government will:
More detail can be found in the Living with COVID-19 plan published today.
Further detail will be published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on Thursday 24 February and a link to this will be provided in the schools COVID-19 operational guidance on the same day.
From Thursday 24 March, the Government will:
From Friday 1 April, the Government will:
Closure of the UKHSA advice service
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement confirming that self-isolation is no longer a legal requirement following a positive test and the publication of the Living with COVID-19 plan, the UKHSA advice service will be decommissioned from 31 March 2022.
The UKHSA advice service, accessed through option 1 of the DfE COVID-19 helpline, was introduced by UKHSA’s predecessor, Public Health England (PHE), in September 2020. This was to provide advice to education and childcare settings on the action they should take to respond to positive cases of COVID-19 in their setting.
The DfE COVID-19 helpline will still be available to answer your questions relating to COVID-19 in education and childcare settings, once the UKHSA advice service is switched off
Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on COVID-19 vaccination for healthy 5 to 11 year olds
The NHS is currently offering vaccines to at-risk children and those who live with immunosuppressed people in this age group. Parents and guardians of at risk 5 to 11 year olds should wait for the NHS to contact them, with local NHS teams already contacting those who are eligible.
On Wednesday 16 February, the government accepted the advice from the independent JCVI to make a non-urgent offer of COVID-19 vaccines to all children aged 5 to 11 in England.
The JCVI advice follows a thorough review by the UK’s independent medicines regulator, the MHRA, which approved Pfizer’s paediatric vaccine, as safe and effective for children aged 5 to 11.
Children without underlying health conditions are at low risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and the priority remains for the NHS to offer vaccines and boosters to older age groups and vulnerable children, as well as to catch-up with other childhood immunisation programmes.
The NHS will prepare to extend this non-urgent offer to all children during April so parents can, if they want, take up the offer to increase protection against potential future waves of COVID-19, as we learn to live with this virus.
The updated JCVI advice for vaccinating 5 to 11 year olds, which was published on Friday 18 February by the NHS, confirms that community pharmacy-led local vaccination services and vaccination centres should be the primary delivery models for this cohort.
Update for schools on recording attendance
School attendance is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age. It continues to be a priority to ensure that as many children as possible are regularly attending school.
The position on recording school attendance in the register has not changed. Where a pupil is following advice to self-isolate prior to a confirmed case of COVID-19 they should be recorded as code X (not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus). Where a pupil has a confirmed case of COVID-19 they should be recorded as code I (illness).
Early years settings no longer required to notify Ofsted of positive cases
From Monday 21 February, we will no longer require early years settings to notify Ofsted of COVID-19 cases in their setting.
Since Summer 2020, Ofsted have processed COVID-19 notifications from early years settings on behalf of the department. This data has helped us understand the impact of COVID-19 on the sector. However, as we move towards living with COVID-19, it is an appropriate time to end this data collection.
It remains a legal requirement under the early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework to report cases of serious illness. You should notify Ofsted as soon as practical, and in any case, within 14 days of a notifiable event happening. For information about what is classed as a notifiable event or serious incident and what to tell Ofsted, please refer to the guidance on reporting a serious childcare incident.
DfE and Ofsted will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 in early years settings through other data sources and through direct engagement with the sector.
When to register your settings bank details to receive funding to support the 12 to 15 year old vaccination programme
On the Monday 24 January we announced that schools will receive at least £1,000 each to support engagement with the vaccination programme. Bank details only need to be registered by settings not currently in receipt of Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) funding which we envisage will mainly be independent special schools. Most schools, including maintained schools, will be paid through their local authority and academies will also be paid directly, therefore will not need to take any action.
The information below has not changed since our last update
Department for Education COVID-19 helpline
The Department for Education COVID-19 helpline and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advice service are available to answer any questions you have about COVID-19 relating to education and childcare settings and children’s social care.