Heads slam government over last-minute local lockdown guidance
The government has issued an eleventh-hour edict to schools on how to plan for local lockdowns, angering headteachers and prompting questions about resources.

The guidance sets out four “tiers” of action that may be needed, depending on the level of government intervention in different areas of the country.It sets out how secondary schools and colleges in certain areas will have to put in place a rota system for their pupils. And schools in areas with the most serious level of government intervention will have to switch back to only allowing vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers on site.

The new guidance was issued shortly after 7pm last night, despite the fact many schools will begin to welcome pupils back next week and some have already begun their new terms.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, called the decision to publish so late on a Friday was “nothing short of reprehensible”.

“It demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the well-being of school leaders and their teams,” he said in an email to members. “The decision confirms the government simply does not understand the commitment and professionalism of school leaders who will feel compelled to act immediately.”However, he said that having gone through the guidance, NAHT felt it was “unlikely” that members will need to take “urgent action over the weekend”.

“With all schools currently deemed to be at what the government is calling ‘tier one’ (open to all pupils), there is no immediate rush to abandon your bank holiday plans. After all, you have worked throughout the pandemic and a great deal of the summer.”

It is not the first time the government has been criticised for the timing of its updates for schools during the pandemic.

Schools Week revealed in June that school leaders had had to read almost 100 updates to government guidance during the coronavirus crisis – a quarter of them published during antisocial hours.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL leadership union, said: “We’ve been calling for more contingency planning from the government in the event of local lockdowns, so we are pleased that it has finally published some guidance to this effect.

“But to wait until the Friday night before most schools return isn’t the government’s finest moment. Obviously, schools haven’t had any chance whatsoever to incorporate this into their planning and will now have to revisit the plans they have put in place.”

The guidance also calls for increased cleaning in schools that operate rota systems, prompting calls for assistance in meeting costs.

Schools Week revealed earlier this year that schools would not be allowed to claim back the costs of preventative cleaning associated with their wider reopening.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said it was “regrettable” that the government had published more guidance at such a late hour, but that his union had been asking for clarity “for some time”.

“There must be a recognition that whilst children will be affected by local restrictions, so too will teachers and other staff in schools. The availability of staff where there is a local lockdown or outbreak may mean that schools have to limit provision if they cannot be staffed safely,” he said.

“The government now needs to confirm that schools will have the additional resources they need to deliver an effective remote learning offer to all pupils as well as funding for additional staff that will be necessary to maintain continuity of provision in the event of local disruption.”

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said he hoped schools wouldn’t have to implement the guidance “because the local lockdown measures we have introduced so far are working”.

“Changes to school attendance will only ever be an absolute last resort. However, it is important that both government and schools prepare for a worst case scenario, so this framework represents the sensible contingency planning any responsible government would put in place.”

New local lockdowns guidance: What schools need to know
Freddie Whittaker Sat 29th Aug 2020, 14.28

Ministers have finally published guidance for schools on how to plan for potential local lockdowns, just days before many schools welcome their pupils back.

The guidance sets out what schools must do in response to different “tiers” of local lockdown.

Here’s what schools need to know.

1. There are four ‘tiers’ of action
Tier 1

Schools will remain open to all pupils but with a requirement that face coverings be worn in corridors and other communal areas of secondary schools where social distancing cannot take place.
Tier 2

Primary, AP and special schools will remain open to all pupils, but secondary schools will move to a rota model, combining “on-site provision with remote education”.

Secondary schools will continue to allow full-time attendance for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, with all other pupils subject to a rota. Further education providers should adopt “similar principles with discretion to decide on a model that limits numbers on site but works for each individual setting”.

The face coverings requirement will also be in place in secondary schools and colleges.
Tier 3

Primary, AP and special schools will remain open to all pupils, but secondary schools and FE colleges will allow full-time on-site provision only to vulnerable pupils, the children of critical workers and selected year groups which will be identified by the DfE.

All other pupils will stay at home and be provided with remote education.

The face coverings requirement will also be in place in secondary schools and colleges.
Tier 4

All mainstream schools and colleges will only allow full-time attendance to vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, with all other pupils staying home and receiving remote education.

AP and special schools will continue to allow full-time attendance of all pupils.

The face coverings requirement will also be in place in secondary schools and colleges.

2. DfE proposes ‘2 weeks on 2 weeks off’ rota system

For secondary schools and colleges in “tier 2” areas, the DfE said they “should ideally operate” a rota system that means pupils alternate spending two weeks on-site followed by two weeks at home. In terms of number of days this would mean 10 days on site, with a weekend in the middle, followed by 16 days at home.

However, schools “can choose” to operate a one-week-on, one-week-off rota, “if this is necessary for the effective delivery of the curriculum”.

This would mean pupils would be on site for five days and then at home for nine.

This “should still allow time for symptoms to present in the vast majority of cases”, the DfE said.

Rota lengths “should not be any shorter than one week as this does not provide sufficient time off-site for symptoms to present”.

“Schools should plan to utilise time over the weekend effectively in order to prepare for a different rota group at the start of the week.”

3. Rota groups should be based on ‘bubbles’

Schools should plan so that rota groups consist of “bubbles” that avoid mixing with one another.

They should also place pupils likely to come into contact outside school in the same rota group to avoid mixing “where practical”. These could include pupils from the same household or local area.

Different rota groups can use the same classrooms and facilities, but schools “should ensure cleaning of frequently touched surfaces takes place in between use by different rota groups, in addition to enhanced cleaning arrangements already in place”.

Vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers “should be integrated into rota groups, even if they continue to remain on-site during weeks their rota group is scheduled to be at home”.

Middle schools, which have some primary age year-groups and some secondary age, should adopt different approaches for different pupils.

Primary year groups “should be attending full-time during a tier 2 intervention and avoid mixing with the secondary year groups operating a rota system”, the DfE said.

4. Staff can operate across rota groups

The DfE has said that teachers and other staff can operate across different rota groups and bubbles, but that schools should support staff “to keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can”.

Staff will “ideally” keep two metres from other adults, and “where this is not possible avoiding close face to face contact and minimising time spent within one metre of others, as set out in the full opening guidance”.

In secondary schools in areas of government intervention, face coverings “should be worn by staff in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain”. However, it will “not usually be necessary to wear face coverings in the classroom, where protective measures already mean the risks are lower, and they may inhibit teaching and education”.

5. Self-isolating pupils must stay home

Pupils should not return to on-site provision if they are self-isolating, “even if their rota group is scheduled to be at school that week”.

Parents and carers “should still inform the school as soon as possible if a pupil tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)”, and local health protection teams will advise on implications for schools.

6. More guidance on shielding staff

Shielding requirements for clinically extremely vulnerable staff were lifted earlier in the summer.

The DfE said it was “unlikely that formal shielding will be reintroduced in a local area”, and said clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people “should be able to attend school during local restrictions”.

However, “in the event that shielding is resumed within the local areas, clinically extremely vulnerable children will not be required to attend school”.

7. Provide food parcels for FSM children

If pupils in receipt of means-tested free school meals are spending time at home, schools “should continue to provide free school meals”, the DfE said.

Schools should work with suppliers “to prepare meals or food parcels to be collected by, or delivered to, eligible children during their time at home”.

“Any parcels should be distributed in line with guidance on social distancing and local restrictions and should meet the school food standards.”

The DfE said it would update guidance on the provision of meals “shortly”.
31 Aug 2020 - 14:54 by WDNF National | comments (0)