Covid: No closing early for Christmas, says PM

Schools also told to await updated DfE guidance on how to operate under the latest set of coronavirus restrictions

John Roberts

Coronavirus: The government has told schools they do not need to close early for Christmas

Schools have been told not to finish term early in a statement issued as part of the prime minister's new winter plan for tackling Covid-19.

The government says that the changes to social restrictions over Christmas will not require any children to be taken out of school prematurely.

This statement comes amid mounting pressure on the Department for Education to allow schools to move to rotas and moves by both an academy trust and a council in the North of England to close earlier amid rising Covid cases and disruption.

Coronavirus: Help desperate and dedicated teachers, ministers told

Academies: Trust announces it is closing a week early for Christmas

Council: Schools to move lessons online to avoid families having to self-isolate

The new winter plan also says that the government plans to pilot rapid testing for Covid in schools.

Coronavirus: Rapid testing in schools rather than self-isolation

The new report says the government plans to introduce frequent testing as an alternative to the need for self-isolation for people who have had close contact with someone who has Covid-19.

Contacts will be offered regular tests as an alternative to isolation and will only have to self isolate if they test positive.

The new winter plan adds: "The government will continue piloting further rapid testing in schools, colleges and universities.

The government has also said that as the country moves out of lockdown back into a tiered system of restrictions, education settings will remain open.

And the government has said that it will publish an updated plan for the "exceptional circumstances" in which restrictions on education are required in any area, but it has made it clear that it does not want any such measures.

The document says: "The Department for Education will update its guidance in the coming days to reflect how settings should operate under the strengthened tier system, and an updated contingency framework in the exceptional circumstances in which further restrictions on education are required in any area.

"The government will do everything possible to avoid enacting those contingency measures at any stage."

Before the start of the academic year, the DfE published a four-tier approach to managing Covid outbreaks through restricting access to schools. But to date, no schools have moved beyond the first tier.

This means that measures that the government told schools to plan for, such as moving on to rotas or closing certain year groups, have not yet been used.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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