Is there a Covid plan for schools next week?

How will Covid tracing work? Can self-isolating pupils return? And will parents blame us for confusion, asks Adam Riches

Adam Riches

Is there a Covid test and trace plan for schools next week?

Being responsive and adapting to the demands of this pandemic have become part of the everyday job for those of us in schools. 

Teachers, teaching assistants, admin staff and everyone in between have been expected to become expertly versed in the procedures and protocols of isolation, tracking, tracing and testing. 

Learning the procedures is one thing – but it becomes a bit more challenging when those procedures are also constantly changing. Throughout the pandemic, instructions have changed – often with minimal notice – and the wording and format have been difficult to make sense of at times.

As such, pressure has been amplified, and the frustrations of parents have often fallen on us: the people in the middle. Frustrated parents – without a direct line to Boris Johnson – have instead begun using schools as their punching bag.

I can understand that people find it frustrating when they are told that their child has to isolate – but that’s no reason to shoot the messenger. Schools didn’t make the rules.

Covid in schools: How will track and trace work next week?

That is history. From next week, bubbles will no longer be required in schools, and the handling of contact tracing will be passed to the NHS. However, self-isolation rules are not being relaxed until August, making it all a bit confusing. 

With restrictions coming to an end, you’d have thought it would be safe to assume that that the government would have had the foresight to make the transition to “normality” clear and straightforward. Alas, we are still facing a situation in which we – both school staff and parents – are still left scratching our heads

The main uncertainty is around how contacts will be traced, whether pupils isolating last week can return to school next week, and who will need to self-isolate.

Many schools are planning on keeping bubbles until the end of this academic year, as they are permitted to do under Department for Education guidance. It also makes total sense not to create upheaval for students during the last days of term. 

Once again, however, the DfE guidance leaves schools open to questioning from parents – but that’s probably a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. We may look like the bad cop in the eyes of some parents, because schools are holding on to restrictions that are being abandoned elsewhere in the area – but what exactly are we to do?

The Covid plan for next week: Who knows? 

The more pressing issue is that the NHS will be taking over the track and trace responsibilities for children. How is this going to work?

Will schools be able or expected to help with contacting parents when it comes to self-isolation? Will we be expected to share details? Will children and families engage with the track and trace staff? Who knows?

The expectation is that parents and children abide by the instructions given by schools until 19 July. And so, once again, we are in the unenviable position of potentially having to tell families that the first chunk of their holiday must be spent in isolation – or maybe not. 

Again, who knows? We certainly don’t. But it would be great to know – because we are being asked by parents. 

Will the NHS assume that anyone told to isolate before 19 July will continue to do so after that date? Or will their slate be wiped clean (so to speak)? If you know, can you pass it on?

Adam Riches is an assistant principal and senior leader for teaching and learning, specialist leader in education and head of English. He tweets @TeachMrRiches

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