COVID-19 guidance for schools
These are the guidelines endorsed by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Children under 5 years who are identified as close contacts are exempt from self-isolation and do not need to take part in daily testing of close contacts. They are advised to take a PCR test if the positive case is in their household.
From 20 January, face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in classrooms. From 27 January, face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors in communal areas.
If a pupil in a boarding school shows symptoms and/or tests positive, they should usually self-isolate in their boarding school. Only in exceptional circumstances, where there is an overriding health or safeguarding issue, should a pupil self-isolate away from school.
From 27 January, venues and events are not required by law to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry. This means that the NHS COVID Pass can not be used as a condition of entry for education or related activities such as exams, teaching, extra-curricular activities or any other day-to-day activities that are part of education or training.
While school leaders are best placed to determine the workforce required to meet the needs of their pupils, there is no longer a suggestion to work from home. If you can get to school, get to school!
Ventilation and CO2 monitoring for schools
Prof Environmental Engineering, Cath Noakes (University of Leeds) has uploaded a video to YouTube giving advice on how to better ventilate schools. She also talks about how to check and calibrate CO2 monitors. The full video is linked below but I’ve listed the main points:
- Open windows
- Use CO2 monitors to look for areas with low/poor ventilation.
- To ensure accurate monitoring, CO2 readings should be taken in occupied rooms for at least 30 minutes, repeating this if the room use is changed.
- 10 minutes per hour of an open window can reduce risk. It is winter and the temperature has dropped but the advice is to still open doors or windows, even by a small amount. The cold air will increase airflow anyway.
- If your CO2 monitor reads ~800ppm (parts per million) that’s good ventilation. If it is reading ~1500ppm then there is either an issue with the ventilation or with the monitor.
- Do you think your CO2 readings are inaccurate? Put two monitors next to each other for about 30 minutes in the same room. They should both read the same. If not, put both monitors outside for 30 minutes to check for faults in readings. Again, they should both read the same. If there is a problem, contact the supplier.
- Poor ventilation? The advice is to fix windows or get an air cleaner.
12- to 15-year-old vaccination programme
The COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone aged 12-15. Getting a vaccine reduces your risk of serious illness; it also reduces the risk of you passing the virus on to others and minimises the risk of disruption to education.
Booking a vaccine is easy. You can access COVID-19 vaccination resources and information here and there is a very helpful (if a little verbose) guide pack available to download here, amongst which is a template letter for parents.
Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) consultation
Following previous consultations, “substantial” changes have been made to the KCSIE document (that big one that you have to read Part 1 of). Coming into force on 1st September 2021, key changes included the incorporation of sexual violence and sexual harassment advice, and, for the first time, advice that all governors and trustees should undertake safeguarding and child protection training.
These changes have been implemented and you should already know about them (although some are only on Parts 2-5). The DfE is now looking for feedback on those changes to help improve documentation going forwards.
I think that this sort of consultation is priceless. Too often we complain about not being listened to by the government, or that the DfE is run by people who have no idea what teaching is like. This is a chance (admittedly, a small chance) to have your voice heard. It’ll take about 20-30 minutes if you include reasons for your responses (as someone who has done a fair bit of research, these explanations are very helpful). You can register your interest here. The feedback form can be saved and returned to, so there is no pressure to complete it all in one go.
Stop Abuse Together: new Government resource to help keep children safe from sexual abuse launches
Three children in every classroom will experience sexual abuse before they turn 16 and most children won’t tell anyone at the time of their abuse. That’s the latest statistic from the government. That’s ten kids in every classroom before they hit 16.
This is very disturbing and, if I’m honest, difficult to read about but that doesn’t make it untrue. And if it is difficult to read about, imagine having to experience it as someone at the wrong end of an abusive relationship.
The new government website Stop Abuse Together has been made in collaboration with NSPCC and has lots of advice and case studies to help staff and parents discuss and recognise the signs of sexual abuse. There are links to age-appropriate material to make discussions with children easier as well (Primary, Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4). The website even has a ‘quick exit’ button which immediately opens a fresh google search page and a phone line for advice: 0800 800 5000 (this is not just to report a concern; they are happy to offer advice on this line as well).
Tackling sexual abuse and harassment in schools
There are three webinars coming up in March to support teachers in delivering the ‘more sensitive’ aspects of the RHSE (Relationship, Health and Sex Education) curriculum. They are free, you just need to register. I’ll be attending them, so I’ll make sure to make notes and share them with you here but it would be a good idea to sign up and attend yourself, particularly if you teach anyone from the ages of 9 upwards.
The sessions are:
- Wednesday 2nd March, 4.00pm-5.30pm: coercion and domestic abuse.
- Wednesday 9th March, 4.00pm-5.30pm: pornography and the impact of viewing harmful content.
- Wednesday 16th March, 4.00pm-5.30pm: sexual exploitation
Teaching resources on health and infection
Calling all you Science teachers out there! The UK Health Security Agency has created a range of lesson plans and activities to help educate children between the ages of 3 and 16 all about microbes, infection prevention, control, and treatments. There are full teaching guides, posters, games, quizzes, and more, all curriculum-linked; full colour and free. You can download them directly from the website, just head over to e-bug.eu and click on school resources.
I’ve had a look at the KS2 ideas and I’m pretty impressed. I’d definitely use them for a few science lessons.
Schools’ Football Week
The English Schools’ Football Association has announced the return of Schools’ Football Week from 7th – 13th February 2022. This year there is a particular emphasis to highlight and embrace girls’ football. You can register your school’s interest here.
National Tutoring Programme
The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) will be hosting webinars over the coming months aimed at schools, to give you the opportunity to find out more about the benefits of the programme and how you can access subsidised tuition through one or more of the routes available. There are three opportunities to attend the Introduction to the NTP (Overall Programme), Jan 27, Feb 24, Mar 17, all at 4pm. You can register your interest here. There are also regional webinars that will focus more on your region specifically here.
If you can’t make any of those dates (suggest it as a staff meeting, maybe?), then the recordings of all the webinars will be made available on-demand here.
And that's your lot. For clarity, the Department for Education is a branch of the Government and covers schools in England only. Nadhim Zahawi is currently the Secretary of State for Education and you can contact him (or his office, at least) here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can contact me by clicking on any of the links below or you can simply leave a comment under this post. Thanks for reading and stay healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally!