To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will ensure that schools, colleges and universities work with local public health teams to ensure that the safest protocols are in place as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are further eased.
When moving to Step 4, the Department’s aim is to balance the risks associated with COVID-19 whilst moving to a ‘steady state’ that minimises both the burden of implementing the system of controls on staff and parents and the impact that those measures have on young people’s education.
Local health protection teams continue to play a role in supporting nurseries and schools as restrictions are eased. Schools and nurseries will already have contingency plans setting out what they will do if they have a COVID-19 outbreak, or if they were advised to use any of the measures described in the contingency framework, which were also known as outbreak management plans.
As part of their outbreak management responsibilities, local health protection teams, working with local authorities and directors of public health, may advise individual schools and nurseries, or a cluster of closely linked schools and nurseries, to temporarily re-introduce some control measures. Given the detrimental impact that restrictions on education can have on children and young people, any measures in schools and nurseries should only ever be considered as a last resort, kept to the minimum number of settings or groups possible and for the shortest amount of time possible.
Where health protection teams, local authorities or directors of public health judge that wider containment action is needed and wish to limit attendance across an area, they should work with their regional partnership team to escalate a proposal to the central Local Action Committee command structure.
The Education Contingency Framework outlines the principles of managing local outbreaks of COVID-19, including responding to variants of concern, in nurseries and schools. The framework can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings/contingency-framework-education-and-childcare-settings.
All nurseries and schools should continue to have outbreak management plans outlining how they would operate if any measures described in the contingency framework were recommended for their setting or area.
The Department has worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to revise guidance for nurseries, schools and universities from Step 4. The Department will continue to keep these measures under review in partnership with health experts and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice.