The Department for Education has asked schools to continue with contact tracing over the Easter break, as they were required to do during the Christmas holiday.
School staff have been asked to assist in identifying close contacts and advising self-isolation if a student or staff member develops symptoms within 48 hours of being in an education setting.
Staff will need to be available for contact tracing duties for the first six days of the Easter holidays, after which positive cases should be dealt with through NHS Test and Trace, according to an email sent to headteachers today.
A school leaders' union has described the news as "infuriating".
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The email specifies that "staff responsible for contact tracing are not asked to be on-call at all times and may designate a limited period in the day to receive notification of positive cases and advise close contacts to self-isolate".
Covid: School contact tracing duties over Easter holiday
The DfE says it recognises "the challenges" of doing this during holidays, but says it is a "key part of the test and trace process as schools and further education providers hold the data about close contacts and pupil contact details".
"Staff, students, parents and carers only need to inform the school or further education provider of a positive case where they developed symptoms within 48 hours of being in their education setting," the email says.
"You are asked to assist in identifying close contacts and advising self-isolation, as the individual may have been infectious whilst in their education setting."
The NAHT school leaders' union director of policy James Bowen said: “We repeatedly asked the government to come up with an alternative to asking school leaders to work during the holidays to support the test and trace operation.
“We’re more than a year into the pandemic, so it’s incredibly infuriating that they haven’t managed to come up with an alternative.”
In December, the DfE suggested to schools that they use the last day of term – Friday 18 December – as an Inset day, meaning they could stop Covid tracing duties by Christmas Eve.
But the Association of School and College Leaders urged the DfE to ensure that school staff were not expected to work after Tuesday 22 December, to ensure they would get a proper break after the "extraordinary stress" of the autumn term.
Concerns had been raised in October that teachers had spent their half-term holiday tracking and tracing.