Further guidance has just been received from the DFE. This is a summary of the parts that apply to a primary school:
Schools continue to remain open for all children and young people as they have since the start of the autumn term for the duration of the national restrictions.
Being at school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing. Time spent out of school is detrimental for children’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children. This impact can affect both current levels of education, and children’s future ability to learn. It continues to be our aim that all pupils, in all year groups, remain in school full-time.
The risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school. For the vast majority of children, the benefits of being back in the classroom far outweigh the low risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) and schools can take action to reduce risks still further.
We published actions for schools during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance to support schools to welcome back all children from the start of the autumn term.
Schools should continue to undertake risk assessments and implement the system of controls set out in this guidance. These measures provide a framework for school leaders to put in place proportionate protective measures for pupils and staff. If schools follow the guidance and maximise control measures, they can be confident they are managing risk effectively.
We would expect schools to ensure any changes required in light of national restrictions are in place as soon as practically possible, and by Monday 9 November at the latest.
Music, dance and drama
Music, dance and drama can be undertaken in school so long as safety precautions are undertaken. Advice is provided in the full opening guidance for schools.
In primary schools and education settings teaching year 6 and below, there is no change to the existing position. It is not mandatory for staff and visitors to wear face coverings. In situations where social distancing between adults in settings is not possible (for example when moving around in corridors and communal areas), settings have the discretion to recommend the use of face coverings for adults on site, for both staff and visitors.
Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings and we expect adults and pupils to be sensitive to those needs.
Clinically extremely vulnerable children and staff
More evidence has emerged that shows there is a very low risk of children becoming very unwell from coronavirus (COVID-19), even for children with existing health conditions. Most children originally identified as clinically extremely vulnerable no longer need to follow original shielding advice. Parents should be advised to speak to their child’s GP or specialist clinician if they have not already done so, to understand whether their child should still be classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
Those children whose doctors have confirmed they are still clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend education whilst the national restrictions are in place. Schools will need to make appropriate arrangements to enable them to continue their education at home.
Children who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, but who are not clinically extremely vulnerable themselves, should still attend education.
Parents of clinically extremely vulnerable children will be receiving a letter shortly confirming this advice.
Those individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to work from home and not to go into work. Individuals in this group will have been identified through a letter from the NHS or from their GP, and may have been advised to shield in the past. Staff should talk to their employers about how they will be supported, including to work from home where possible, during the period of national restrictions.
All other staff should continue to attend work, including those living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.
Clinically vulnerable staff and children
Staff and children who are clinically vulnerable or have underlying health conditions but are not clinically extremely vulnerable, may continue to attend school in line with current guidance.
Travel in or out of local areas should be avoided, and parents, carers and staff should look to reduce the number of journeys they make - but travelling to deliver and access education is still permitted.
Staff, children and their parents and carers are encouraged to walk or cycle when travelling to and from school where this is possible, and to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow social distancing to be practised.
The Prime Minister and Education Secretary have been clear that exams will go ahead next summer, as they are the fairest and most accurate way to measure a pupil’s attainment. Pupils now have more time to prepare for their exams next year, as most AS, A levels and GCSEs will be held 3 weeks later to help address the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Sport and physical education
It is important that children continue to remain fit and active and, wherever possible, have the 60 active minutes of daily physical activity recommended by the Chief Medical Officers.
Schools have the flexibility to decide how physical education, sport and physical activity will be provided whilst following the measures in their system of controls.
Sports whose national governing bodies have developed guidance under the principles of the government’s guidance on team sport and been approved by the government are permitted. Schools must only provide team sports listed on the return to recreational team sport framework. Competition between different schools should not take place, in line with the wider restrictions on grassroots sport.
Pupils should be kept in consistent groups and sports equipment thoroughly cleaned between each use by different individual groups.
Outdoor sports should be prioritised where possible, and large indoor spaces used where it is not, maximising natural ventilation flows (through opening windows and doors or using air conditioning systems wherever possible), distancing between pupils and paying scrupulous attention to cleaning and hygiene. This is particularly important in a sports setting because of the way in which people breathe during exercise. External facilities can also be used in line with government guidance for the use of, and travel to and from, those facilities.
Schools are able to work with external coaches, clubs and organisations for curricular activities where they are satisfied that it is safe to do so. Where schools are offering extra-curricular activities (that is, before and after school clubs) they should only do so where it is reasonably necessary to support parents to work, search for work, or undertake training or education, or where the provision is being used for the purposes of respite care.
Activities such as active miles, making break times and lessons active and encouraging active travel help to enable pupils to be physically active while encouraging physical distancing.