Coronavirus Information 17th December 2020

17th December 2020

This is your daily email to keep you updated on the government’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Rapid testing for schools and colleges returning after the winter break

The government has today, 17 December, confirmed that all secondary schools and colleges in England will be able to offer staff and students an extra round of free coronavirus testing from the first week of January. This will help deliver the national priority of keeping as many students and teachers as possible in school and college while fighting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

With this in mind we have agreed to a three-strand approach to managing transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19):

  1. Supporting schools to set a regular testing programme to test staff and the close contacts of staff and students who test positive for the virus (as announced on Tuesday 15 Dec).
  2. Reducing the number of children in secondary schools and colleges for the first full week of January, with vulnerable children, children of critical workers and those in exam cohorts, receiving face to face education, with others learning remotely.
  3. Offering secondary schools and colleges help, support and facilities to test as many pupils as possible as they resume face-to-face education.

We have published guidance for:

This sets out the steps required to deliver the second and third strands, including:

  • week commencing 4 January, secondary schools and colleges will provide remote education to most pupils, only opening for face-to-face education for vulnerable children, children of critical workers and those in exam years
  • lateral flow testing is offered by schools to as many secondary school-age pupils and students at FE colleges as possible, starting in week commencing 4 January
  • testing will not be mandated and all students will be expected to attend school or colleges from 11 January, regardless of whether a test has been undertaken
  • those children expected to attend in week commencing 4 January, and the workforce, are prioritised for testing first
  • the same testing regime is followed in alternative provision and in special schools where feasible for these pupils and students (all of these pupils and students are considered as ‘vulnerable’ and so be expected to attend full-time face-to-face provision from 4 Jan)
  • information on next steps will follow in the coming days
  • primary schools and early years provision will not be affected

Armed forces personnel will support directly through planning with schools and colleges. Reasonable workforce costs will be reimbursed.

COVID -19 workforce fund

The Department has now published guidance setting out the eligibility criteria and claims process for the COVID-19 Workforce Fund, announced on 27 November.

There is guidance for:

The fund helps schools and colleges with high staff absences and significant financial pressures to meet the cost of absences experienced during the period from 1 November to 31 December 2020.

ITT trainees and rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in schools and colleges

We recently announced that, from January, staff and pupils will have access to rapid testing to help keep schools and colleges open throughout the spring term. Schools and colleges are asked to note that this guidance includes initial teacher training (ITT) trainees on placement. ITT trainees on placement in schools should be offered tests in the same way as wider school staff. A handbook has been published to help schools and colleges prepare for rapid testing from January.

Pausing of the educational settings status form over the winter break

Thank you for taking the time to complete the daily return over the past few months. Please note that you do not need to complete the form over the winter break.

The information below has not changed since our last update

Department for Education coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline – holiday hours

The Department for Education coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline and the PHE Advice Service (option 1) will be available over the holidays to answer any questions you have about coronavirus (COVID-19) relating to education settings and children’s social care. These helplines will close on the bank holidays and have shortened opening hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Opening hours:

24 December – 8am to 4pm
25 to 28 December – Closed
29 to 30 December – 8am to 6pm
31 December – 9am to 4pm
1 January – Closed
2 to 3 January – 10am to 6pm

Until 24 December, the helpline opening hours are:

Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm
Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm

Please listen carefully to all of the available options before selecting the most appropriate option for your nursery, school, college or university.

Please select option 1 or 2 if you require specific advice on the action to take to respond to a positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your setting. This option will take you through to a dedicated team of NHS Business Services Authority advisors who will work through a risk assessment with you to identify close contacts and will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice.

Please select option 3 or 4 for any other questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) relating to education settings and children’s social care.

Look up your unique organisation number (UON)

If you have not received your unique organisation number (UON) for ordering new coronavirus (COVID-19) test kits you can look it up using your unique reference number (URN) or your UK provider reference number (UKPRN) or by calling the Test and Trace helpdesk on 119.

Department for Education guidance

Our guidance to support education providers, local authorities and parents during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can be accessed using the links below: