Updated operational guidance for schools – Friday 10 December 2021

This week I highlight updated operational guidance to schools following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 8 December enacting Plan B of the autumn and winter plan 2021, the launch of the new attendance alliance hosted by the Education Secretary and the publication of Ofsted’s annual report for 2020/21.

Updated Covid-19 operational guidance for schools
As previously reported, on 27 November the Prime Minister announced the temporary introduction of new measures as a result of the Omicron variant and on 8 December announced that Plan B, as set out in the Government’s autumn and winter plan 2021, was being enacted. As a result the operational guidance for schools has been updated and changes include:

  • updated advice on tracing close contacts and isolation to reflect the forthcoming change to isolation rules
  • an updated control measures section to reflect developments on ventilation
  • an updated asymptomatic testing section reflecting that schools should encourage visitors to test before coming into their buildings
  • an updated other considerations section to reflect the latest language on children who were previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and to reflect the policy on mandatory certification
  • an updated workforce section to reflect the latest language on adults who were previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and to reflect the Government recommendation to work from home if they can

Launch of new attendance alliance
Yesterday the Education Secretary hosted the first meeting of leading experts working with children to improve school attendance. All members of the new attendance alliance pledged to engage with their members, stakeholders and the professionals they represent to make sure they are following best practice in improving attendance within their day-to-day work.

Although recent trends in attendance levels have been largely driven by covid, which is outside the scope of the work of the alliance, the Government is determined to address the wider underlying causes of children not being in school, as it is the best place for their development and wellbeing.

Findings from Ofsted’s Annual Report 2020/21
Ofsted’s Annual Report provides a state of the nation view of education and children’s social care over the last academic year. During this period, much of Ofsted’s routine inspection work was suspended. However, regulatory work continued, and the inspectorate undertook monitoring and research visits to see first-hand how schools, colleges, nurseries, and social care providers were reacting and responding to the shifting situation brought about by the pandemic. The report describes how:

  • The loss of education, disrupted routine, and lack of activities led some children to develop physical and mental health problems.
  • Children with special educational needs and/or disabilities had additional barriers to overcome as many were unable to access the support they rely on.
  • Vulnerable children, at risk of harm or neglect, disappeared from teachers’ line of sight, resulting in significantly lower levels of referrals to social care.
  • Some children in care felt less safe due to lockdown restrictions and broken relationships with staff.
  • Long-standing pressures on care placements grew, with long waiting lists and children being placed far from their families, or in unregistered homes.
  • Some children attending alternative provision became involved in criminal activity, including gang violence, and were at risk of child sexual exploitation.
  • The development and progress of many of the youngest children were hampered, with some even regressing in basic language and social skills.

The Annual Report noted that, from education inspections carried out so far this term, Ofsted is beginning to see that schools and colleges with a well-planned and well-implemented curriculum are best placed to get children to where they need to be. But for children to really regain a sense of normality in their lives and their education, it’s important the focus is not solely on bridging gaps in academic learning. Schools must offer children a rounded experience, including a rich curriculum, sport and physical activity, and extra-curricular opportunities that broaden their horizons.