Schools have been asked to reintroduce masks in common areas for staff and pupils in year seven and above due to concerns about the Omicron variant of Covid.
The new recommendation came in an email sent to presidents today after a national government press conference on the new alternative on Saturday.
The department said the recommendation applies to all schools starting tomorrow.
Update School Guidelines for Omicron Covid . Variant
The DfE email says:Face coverings must be worn in public areas in all settings by employees, visitors, and pupils or students in grades seven and above, unless exempted.
“Students or students (in seventh grade or older) must continue to wear face coverings on public and designated school transportation, unless they are exempt.”
The email adds that the department discussed this update with the Association of School and College Leaders, the NAHT School Leaders Association, and the Association of Schools Associations, and decided it “would be beneficial to release today rather than wait until Monday.”
It wasn’t clear from the email to chiefs when the recommendation would go into effect, but a later statement from the DfE said it’s asking schools to wear face coverings in public areas starting tomorrow.
Omicron variable isolation
The DfE email also tells schools that current guidelines on contact tracing and isolation are still in effect. But he adds that in addition, any suspected or confirmed close contacts of those with the Omicron variant will be required to isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status or age.
The news comes as the government announced that compulsory mask-wearing will return to shops and public transport on Tuesday.
Health Minister Sajid Javid has announced the discovery of a third case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in the UK.
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In a statement issued tonight, Education Minister Nadim Al-Zahawi said: “News of a new species – the so-called Omicron variant will be an understandable cause for concern to people across the country, including our teachers, education staff and the broader childcare, parents, pupils and students.
“We are already taking targeted and proportionate actions as a precaution as we discover more information about the new variant.
“And as we do so, we will continue to prioritize the education and well-being of children and young people, ensuring that education and childcare settings are as safe as possible and that children continue to benefit from classroom teaching.
“We are working with education and childcare settings to strengthen safety measures when needed, including offering 10-day isolation to close contacts of suspected omicron cases.”
red list for travel abroad
The DfE email also advised schools to consider whether or not to proceed with international visits.
She adds: “Individuals arriving in England from Red List countries must follow the rules of the Red List.
South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe moved to the red list at 12pm on Friday 26 November.
Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia were added to the Red List at 4am on Sunday 28 November.
“Schools and colleges outside schools will want to consider whether to proceed with planned international education visits at this time, recognizing the risk of disruption to education resulting from the need for isolation and testing upon arrival in the UK.”
is yours It revealed Friday that the government is asking secondary schools to conduct on-site testing for pupils in January at the start of the new semester to combat the spread of Covid and gave them less than three days’ notice to order the kits they need.
More support needed to respond to COVID in schools
In response to today’s update, Jeff Barton, ASCL Secretary General, said: “We support these measures as a reasonable response to the risks posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19. However, this worrying situation underscores the need for better government support for the education sector.”
He added that The Omicron variant risks exacerbating school absenteeism.
“It is therefore necessary for the government to provide workforce funding for schools and colleges to help cover the cost of supplying absent employees,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced wide-ranging new measures in response to the Omicron formula at a press conference yesterday. You can watch below.