Updated operational guidance – Friday 3 December 2021

This week I report on updated operational guidance to schools in relation to the Omicron variant, the ten youth violence hotspots receiving £30 million funding to keep pupils in school and preventing crime and the appointment of a new shadow Education Secretary.

Updated operational guidance to schools
The Prime Minister announced on 27 November the temporary introduction of new
measures as a result of the Omicron variant. The measures are precautionary, while
the variant is tracked and assessed. As a result, the DfE has updated its operational guidance for schools to reflect these measures, most directly a temporary recommendation on the wearing of face coverings in schools and changes to isolation requirements for confirmed and suspected cases of the Omicron variant and their contacts. The advice remains subject to change as the situation develops. Changes to the guidance since its 27 September 2021 publication include:

  • updated advice on tracing close contacts and isolation to reflect the change in measures for close contacts of suspected or confirmed Omicron cases
  • updated advice on face coverings to reflect the change in measures – they are now recommended in communal areas in all schools for adults and for pupils from year 7 onwards
  • replacement of references to Public Health England with references to the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA)
  • updated information in the other considerations section on vaccination of under 18 year olds
  • an updated travel and quarantine section to reflect that pupils arriving from abroad will need to isolate and test on arrival
  • an updated educational visits section to advise you consider whether to go ahead with any planned international educational visits

Schools in youth violence ‘hotspots’ to lead £30m taskforces scheme
Schools in ten youth violence “hotspots” will lead new taskforces backed by £30 million in funding aimed at keeping pupils in school and preventing crime. The DfE has named the ten areas that will get new “SAFE” (Support, Attend, Fulfil, Exceed) taskforces run by mainstream schools. They will be led by local schools, which have not been named yet. The DfE said it would be up to each taskforce to decide how the money will be allocated.

The government has also named 22 alternative provision schools that will benefit from specialist taskforces under a scheme backed by £15 million. Ministers announced in September that it would create the two initiatives, which are aimed at keeping young people in school to prevent them from turning to crime and helping them move on to further education, employment or training.

New Shadow Education Secretary in Labour Cabinet reshuffle
Bridget Phillipson has been appointed shadow Education Secretary after Kate Green was moved from the role. This is Ms Phillipson’s second shadow ministerial brief as Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer promoted her as shadow Chief Secretary to the treasury in April 2020.