Staggered rollout of Covid testing for secondary schools – Friday 18 December 2020

In the final week of a very long term I report on the staggered rollout of covid testing for secondary schools from January, the new requirement to publish information on school websites about their remote education provision and new guidance on holiday activities and food programmes for 2021.

Staggered rollout of coronavirus testing in secondary schools
Yesterday at very short notice, the DfE announced that rapid-result covid tests will be provided to schools, starting with secondary schools and FE colleges, including special schools and alternative provision from January 2021. The aim is to help identify those who are carrying the virus without displaying symptoms, reducing the risk of transmission for students as well as staff. They will also conduct daily testing for those identified as close contacts of staff or students that have tested positive ensuring that they don’t need to isolate.

Students in exam year groups (Y11+Y13), vulnerable children and children of critical workers, as well as students in primary, special and alternative provision will return to school from the start of term. Secondary schools will operate a staggered return, with all non exam year groups receiving full time remote education during the first week of term, with face to face education starting on 11 January 2021. Vocational exams scheduled for the week of 4 January will proceed as planned.

The DfE has indicated full guidance will be provided to schools and colleges on how to set up and staff the testing and those students attending face to face education in the first week of term will be offered the first testing dates. Whilst testing is voluntary, close contacts who decide not to be tested daily will need to self-isolate in line with guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection.

No doubt Headteachers and Senior Leadership Teams in secondary schools, special schools and alternative provision will need to start working on this straight away to ensure they have plans in place for the start of the Spring term.

New requirement to publish information about remote education provision
Schools must publish information about their remote education provision on their websites by 25 January 2021. To support school leaders in setting out that information the DfE has worked with schools to design a template. It is aligned to the expectations for remote education, to which schools must have regard under the temporary continuity direction given by the Secretary of State for Education.

The template is not mandatory, and schools can adapt it to suit their context. For example, while it has been designed to be used at the whole-school level, some schools might find it helpful to provide different information for different key stages or subjects. Schools can find further help and support on how to meet the expectations for remote education via the DfE’s remote education good practice guide and school-led webinars.

DfE guidance on the holiday activities and food programme for 2021
The holiday activities and food programme 2021 provides grant funding to local authorities to coordinate free holiday provision for eligible children. The guidance explains the aims and objectives of the programme, what the funding covers and how the funding will be allocated.