To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what guidance he is providing to schools to ensure levels of covid-19 infection do not increase as pupils return to classrooms in the autumn 2021 term; and what the guidance is on the use of face coverings in classrooms.
The government has made it a national priority to minimise disruption to education so that nurseries, schools and colleges should continue to operate as normally as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak. That is why bubbles are no longer recommended, children no longer need to self-isolate if identified as a contact of a positive case, schools are no longer expected to undertake contact tracing, and those 12 and over are being offered the COVID-19 vaccine. As per the department’s guidance, schools should keep good hygiene measures in place, keep spaces well ventilated and follow public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases.
Operational guidance for nurseries, schools and colleges provides further detail on the testing, ventilation and hygiene measures that should be in place from the start of the autumn term to manage transmission of COVID-19 on a day-to-day basis. The contingency framework includes the additional measures that should be included in their contingency plans in case they are advised to take extra steps because of a spike in infections, such as increasing testing and face coverings.
The department has worked with Public Health England to develop the new thresholds outlined in the contingency framework. These are designed to help nurseries, schools and colleges identify when it might be sensible to seek public health advice. It is advised to take extra action if the number of positive cases substantially increases. Where thresholds are reached, nurseries, schools and colleges should consider reinforcing the measures they already have in place and may consider seeking further public health advice, if concerned.
Face coverings are no longer recommended in nurseries, schools and colleges but it is expected and recommended that these are worn when travelling on public or dedicated transport. The department’s guidance does not create any legal obligations on pupils, students and staff. Nurseries, schools and colleges should continue to conduct risk assessments for their particular circumstances and take appropriate action in line with the control measures.