Heads in talks on Christmas break from contact tracing

School leaders' union urges government to ensure that heads are not expected to contact Covid cases after 22 December

John Roberts and Dave Speck

Coronavirus: A school leaders' union has called on the government to ensure that headteachers get a break from test and trace duties over Christmas

Headteachers are lobbying the Department of Education to issue guidance that allows school staff to stop doing track and trace work over the Christmas break to ensure that they can rest after the "extraordinary stress" of this term.

The Association of School and College Leaders has urged the department to ensure that school staff are not expected to carry out this role after Tuesday 22 December.

The DfE has said that it will shortly produce guidance on the issue and recognised that school staff needed to "rest and recharge" during the Christmas break.

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The move comes as several education unions have warned that the tracking and tracing of Covid contacts is becoming a duty for heads and school leaders around the clock.

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Mr Barton said: “We are in discussion with the Department for Education about the role of schools in carrying out contact tracing during the Christmas holidays.

"It is our view that schools should not be expected to carry out contact tracing beyond Tuesday 22 December.

"We believe this builds in a reasonable amount of time after the end of term on Friday 18 December for contacts to be traced in the event of any positive cases, while giving staff certainty that they will be able to stand down from Wednesday 23 December and enjoy their Christmas break.

"This is the least that staff are entitled to after the extraordinary stress and pressure of this term. We are expecting the Department for Education to issue guidance in due course, and hopefully very soon, given the need to communicate arrangements to staff, pupils and parents.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We will shortly provide guidance to schools and colleges on how to manage the short period after the end of term where their support may be required with contact tracing.

“We recognise that staff need to rest and recharge over the Christmas break. Our approach will reduce the demands on staff as far as possible, while continuing to do what is necessary to fight the virus and keep communities as safe as possible.”

The NASUWT teaching union has also spoken out on the issue. It has said that any heads or leaders who agree to carry out this work should be paid additionally for every day they are on call.

Tes first revealed that this was becoming an issue earlier this term. 

The NAHT school leaders' union's director of policy, James Bowen, warned that heads and school leadership teams had become a relied upon part of the country's test, track and trace infrastructure and could find themselves on call 365 days a year.


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John Roberts and Dave Speck

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