Christmas 'time off': 6 new rules teachers need to know

The Department for Education has sent schools 11th-hour guidance on breaking up for the Christmas holiday
8th December 2020, 7:15pm
John Roberts and Amy Gibbons

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Christmas 'time off': 6 new rules teachers need to know

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/christmas-time-6-new-rules-teachers-need-know
Coronavirus: The Dfe Has Sent Schools New Guidance On Breaking Up For The Christmas Holiday

Schools have been given new guidance from the Department for Education on when to finish for Christmas and what will be expected from teachers in helping to track and trace Covid contacts after term ends.

An email has been sent to schools today setting out the government's latest plans and urging them to keep parents informed.

Here is everything teachers need to know.


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Coronavirus: New DfE end-of-term guidance for schools

1. Schools can make the last the Friday of term an Inset day for staff training

The DfE has suggested that schools take Friday 18 December as a non-teaching day and instead use it for staff training, which could be delivered online.

It has said this is "to ensure that staff get the time off they need and deserve".

However, the department has also said that schools will need to make up the teaching time in the new year and that they should not limit attendance in schools before Friday 18 December.  The email to school adds: "It remains vital for all children to be in school up to the last day of teaching." 

2.  Schools that were set to stay open in the week of Christmas can end the term earlier

The Department for Education has said that if schools had scheduled to stay open into the week beginning Monday 21 December, they can switch to finish on Friday 18 December and use it as an Inset day.

The government had previously resisted an attempt by a multi-academy trust to bring forward its end of term but is now giving some schools the freedom to end term on a couple of days earlier than planned. Under these changes, state schools' final teaching day can be Thursday 17 December.

3. Six days of track and tracing after lessons finish

Public Health England has agreed a six-day window after the final day of teaching in which schools and colleges are expected to make staff available to help with tract and tracking of contacts of Covid-19 cases.

The Department for Education's email to schools today says that this will allow enough time for positive coronavirus cases to be identified and confirmed by a test and for relevant contacts in the school to be traced.

This means that if schools finish teaching on 17 December, no Covid contact tracing will be expected of school staff after 23 December.

The department has also told schools that the amount of tracing they will have to do in those six days is expected to drop over time as "the majority of cases should be identified earlier in the week".

4. The government doesn't expect teachers or heads to be on call all the time

The email also says that during the six days when track and tracing help may be needed, schools are not expected to be on call at all times.

The DfE says: "Staff responsible for contact tracing may designate a limited period in the day to receive notification of positive cases and advise close contacts to self-isolate." 

It also says this can be done by text and email.

5.  When will a school be contacted about Covid cases?

The guidance says that, where a pupil or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, having developed symptoms more than 48 hours since being in school, the school should not be contacted.

In this instance, parents and carers should follow contact tracing instructions provided by NHS Test and Trace.

For the first six days after teaching ends, if a pupil or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, having developed symptoms within 48 hours of being in school, the school is asked to assist in identifying close contacts and advising self-isolation, as the individual may have been infectious while they were in school.

6. Schools should advise parents of term date changes as soon as possible

The department has acknowledged that its latest advice has arrived "with schools late in the term".

But its email asks schools "to be as helpful to parents as they can by sharing any changes to end of term arrangements as soon as possible, particularly where schools choose to make Friday 18 December a non-teaching day".

"Your support with this is appreciated," it adds. 

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