Dear Parents and Carers,
On Tuesday afternoon, very late in the term, the Government asked all schools to consider making Friday 18th December an INSET (Teacher Training) Day. This is to support the contact tracing which we do, in the pre-Christmas period. After some careful consideration, and speaking with our Chair of Governors, St Bart’s will have our final day of the term on Thursday 17th December. Friday will be a training day for staff, replacing the day planned for the summer term.
I do understand that this change will put some of you in a tricky situation for childcare, and I am sorry for the very short notice. Under normal circumstances, it is something we would never want to do. My hope is that, as well as supporting contact tracing, and aiding the provision of free school meals in the holiday period, the date change will reduce the likelihood of our families having to isolate for the Christmas period and make for a more enjoyable time.
Please bear in mind that, even with this reduction in term length, the school and Public Health England may contact families with a request to self-isolate. If you are not contacted by 23rd December, then there will be no further Covid-19 infection risk linked to your child attending school during the last week of term.
If your child develops symptoms during this time, especially if they receive a positive test, please contact school directly on our dedicated mobile number (07496 530251) or, even better, email our office so that we can follow up. These will be checked daily, between 9am and 3pm, up to and including 23rd December.
I have included the full brief from the Government at the end of this message.
Thank you for the tremendous support you have shown this term. It has been a term like no other, but it has been a great success.
Communication from the DfE – to schools (Tuesday 8th December 2020)
End of term planning
We know that school and further education leaders, teachers and staff, as well as nurseries and childminders, have worked tirelessly over the last term. This has included their important role in contact tracing, to help in the national effort to limit the spread of the virus. We are aware that this has led to additional work over weekends and holidays and we are incredibly grateful for this.
We recognise the challenges of this responsibility at the end of term. Public Health England has agreed a 6 day window after the final day of teaching in which schools and further education providers are asked to remain contactable so they can assist with contact tracing where necessary. This will allow enough time for positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases to be identified and confirmed by a test and for relevant contacts in the education setting to be traced. We are clear that beyond 6 days after the final day of teaching, school and further education staff are not asked to play a role in any contact tracing. It is also likely that the need to support the tracing process will reduce dramatically over the course of the 6 days as the majority of cases should be identified earlier in the week.
End of term – advice for schools
To ensure that staff get the time off they need and deserve, schools may wish to use an INSET day, making Friday 18 December a non-teaching day and using the day for staff training, which could be delivered online. Where term would normally finish in the week commencing 21 December, schools may wish to consider adjusting term dates to make Friday 18 December the last day of term (which could be an INSET day), and bringing forward the start of term in January by the same number of days.
In all circumstances, teaching time must be made up at another point in the academic year. You should not limit attendance at school before Friday 18 December. It remains vital for all children to be in school up to the last day of teaching.
We recognise this communication has arrived with schools late in the term but would ask 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.
We recommend all schools ensure staff, parents and carers are aware of the following information and relevant arrangements regarding positive cases in the holidays:
Where a pupil or staff member tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), having developed symptoms more than 48 hours since being in school, the school should not be contacted. Parents and carers should follow contact tracing instructions provided by NHS Test and Trace.
For the first 6 days after teaching ends, if a pupil or staff member tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), 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 whilst in school.
School staff are not asked to remain on-call or conduct any contact tracing more than 6 days after the final day of teaching. Where a schools last teaching day is on Thursday 17 December, there should be no pupil contact tracing asks beyond Wednesday 23 December.
For the first 6 days after the end of term, schools are not asked to be on-call at all times. 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 (this can be done by text or email). The Department for Education coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline and PHE advice service are available to support with any queries you have about positive cases in your school.
Where pupils are required to self-isolate due to contact with a positive case after the first 6 days following the end of term, schools do not need to be informed about their absence until the first day of the new term.