Schools told to move classes outdoors if five pupils test positive for Covid

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:29 am
Schools have been advised to hold lessons outside. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Schools are being advised to consider outdoor lessons if five pupils who are likely to have mixed test positive for coronavirus, according to new guidance from the Department for Education (DfE). 

The suggestion has been dismissed as “total fudge” by a union which is calling instead for an urgent plan, backed up by cast-iron investment” to install ventilation equipment in school buildings as soon as possible.

The document released by the DfE refers to thresholds which can be used by education and childcare settings as an indication for when to seek public health advice if they are concerned.

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One of the thresholds is when five children, pupils, students or staff, who are likely to have mixed closely, test positive for Covid-19 within a 10-day period.

The other is when 10% of children, pupils, students or staff who are likely to have mixed closely test positive within 10 days.

The document says: “At the point of reaching a threshold, education and childcare settings should review and reinforce the testing, hygiene and ventilation measures they already have in place.”

It says settings should also consider “whether any activities could take place outdoors, including exercise, assemblies, or classes”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are concerned that the contingency framework is growing during the summer holidays and with very little time for schools and colleges to update their planning.

“They are now expected to have in place plans for extra action in the event of a certain number of coronavirus cases occurring within their setting.

“This would kick in before more stringent measures that might be advised by public health experts.

“The extra action listed is slightly bizarre in that it includes ways to improve ventilation when government advice amounts to no more than keeping open windows.

“The suggestion that schools could realistically consider holding assemblies and lessons outdoors during the autumn term, as temperatures plummet, is a total fudge on the Government’s part.

“What is needed is an urgent plan, backed up by cast-iron investment, to install ventilation equipment in school buildings as soon as possible.

While some have welcomed guidance from the government on coronavirus transmission in schools, others have said more needs to be done to prevent the spread.

In particular, many are calling for better ventilation and a push to encourage testing at home.

Additional reporting by PA.