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Latest DFE update to COVID-19 contingency framework - 20th Aug 2021

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In preparation for the Autumn term, The Department for Education (DFE) has updated its Covid contingency framework for schools with suggestions on how and when to tackle outbreaks.

Updated on August 17th, the framework describes the principles of managing local outbreaks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in education and childcare settings. This covers the types of measures that settings should be prepared for, when measures should be lifted and how decisions are made.

When to consider extra action: the latest changes to the framework:

In addition to the current rules in place, there are now two suggested thresholds for when schools may consider the guidance says. For most schools, this is whichever is reached first out of:

  • Five children, pupils, students or staff, who are likely to have mixed closely, test positive for Covid-19 within a 10-day period, or
  • 10 per cent of pupils, students or staff who are likely to have mixed closely test positive for Covid-19 within a 10-day period
  • For special schools, residential settings, and settings that operate with 20 or fewer pupils, students and staff at any one time, the threshold is: two pupils, students and staff, who are likely to have mixed closely, test positive for Covid-19 within a 10-day period

Close mixing

Identifying a group that is likely to have mixed closely will be different for each setting, the document says, but "will rarely mean a whole setting or year group".

For schools, it could include a form group or subject class, a friendship group mixing at breaktimes, a sports team or a group in an after-school activity.

Extra considerations

When the above thresholds are reached, schools "should review and reinforce the testing, hygiene and ventilation measures they already have in place", according to the guidance.

Schools should also consider:

  • Whether any activities could take place outdoors, including exercise, assemblies, or classes.
  • Ways to improve ventilation indoors, where this would not significantly impact thermal comfort.
  • One-off enhanced cleaning focussing on touch points and any shared equipment.

If a director of public health or a health protection team judges that additional action should be taken, they may advise settings take extra measures such as:

  • Strengthened communications to encourage pupils / students to undertake twice weekly rapid asymptomatic home testing and reporting.
  • Temporarily reinstating face coverings for pupils/students, staff and visitors in indoor and/or communal spaces in secondary schools, FE and HE settings, and for staff in primary, early years, out-of-school, and specialist settings. This should be for two weeks in the first instance, pending regular review.
  • Reinstating on-site rapid lateral flow device testing in secondary schools, colleges and universities for a two-week period to encourage uptake of twice weekly testing.
  • Increased frequency of testing.
  • In "extreme cases", and as a last resort, schools may be advised to introduce short-term attendance restrictions in a setting, such as sending home a class or year group.

Full guidance for mainstream schools and specialist schools can be found on the DFE website.

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