Commenting on news that schools in England will be allowed to close a day early for Christmas to allow staff a break from identifying potential COVID-19 cases, Deborah Lawson, Community Assistant General Secretary for the Voice education section, said:
“We welcome this small concession from the Government – which should relieve staff of track and trace responsibilities and enable them to have a complete break over the festive season.
“Many of the education workforce have worked solidly since the beginning of the pandemic and are great need of a proper break.
“We would like to see the Government do more to recognise the key role played by school staff in the track and trace system, and the extra burden this has placed upon them, workload and school budgets.
“We are supportive of the need for schools to be able to make their own decisions on term flexibility based on the needs of their own learners and staff. Schools must be able to take such action as is necessary to keep the workplace safe for all.”
"Schools can shut for Christmas a day early" (BBC News)
Speaking to the Education Select Committee, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:
"We are about to announce that inset days can be used on Friday December 18, even if an inset day had not been originally scheduled for that day.
"We want there to be a clear six days so that, by the time we reach Christmas Eve, staff can have a proper break without having to engage in the track and trace issues."
In an update to early years and education providers, the Department for Education (DfE) stated:
End of term planning for schools
"Public Health England has agreed a 6 day window after the final day of teaching in which schools and further education providers are asked to remain contactable so they can assist with contact tracing where necessary. This will allow enough time for positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases to be identified and confirmed by a test and for relevant contacts in the education setting to be traced. We are clear that beyond 6 days after the final day of teaching, school and further education staff are not asked to play a role in any contact tracing. It is also likely that the need to support the tracing process will reduce dramatically over the course of the 6 days as the majority of cases should be identified earlier in the week."
"To ensure that staff get the time off they need and deserve, schools may wish to use an INSET day, making Friday 18 December a non-teaching day and using the day for staff training, which could be delivered online. Where term would normally finish in the week commencing 21 December, schools may wish to consider adjusting term dates to make Friday 18 December the last day of term (which could be an INSET day), and bringing forward the start of term in January by the same number of days.
"In all circumstances, teaching time must be made up at another point in the academic year. You should not limit attendance at school before Friday 18 December. It remains vital for all children to be in school up to the last day of teaching."
End of term – advice for further education providers
"We advise that, where possible, all face to face teaching ends on Thursday 17 December, which would give a cut-off date of 23 December. After 23 December, further education providers will not be contacted by NHS Test and Trace for contact tracing.
"Further education providers already have flexibility to determine term dates and decide how to deliver planned hours across the study programme, which will allow face to face teaching to end by 17 December."