The Government has issued new guidance on what schools and nurseries should do in the event of a local lockdown.
Education and childcare will usually remain fully open to all in the event of local lockdowns, according to new Government guidance.
It says there may be additional requirement that face coverings should be worn by staff and pupils in schools and colleges, from year 7 and above, outside classrooms when moving around communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.
However, the guidance notes that there may be exceptional circumstances when some level of restriction to education or childcare may be necessary and these will fit into four tiers. Those restrictions will be implemented in a phased manner, with an emphasis on preserving face to face education and childcare as much as possible and extensive limitations on education and childcare being a last resort.
Nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges will need to consider how they would operate at each tier in the event that these restrictions become necessary in their local area. Central government will decide if a school is to be closed.
Tier one is the default position with schools and nurseries open. In tier two, masks will be required for secondary school students moving around the school building. Secondary schools will move to a rota model, combining on-site provision with remote education, with key worker and vulnerable children still attending school full time. Primary schools and nurseries will remain open and masks will be worn by secondary school children moving between classes.
In tier three only vulnerable and key worker children will attend secondary school in person. Primary schools and nurseries will remain open and masks will be worn by secondary school children moving between classes.
In tier four all nurseries, childminders, mainstream schools, colleges and other educational establishments will only admit vulnerable and key worker children on site. Remote education will be provided for all other pupils.
The local lockdown advice also covers moves to home working in the case of a local lockdown, restrictions on gatherings, mandatory mask wearing in public areas, closing businesses in entire sectors or in specific geographical locations and restrictions on movement.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, welcomed the guidance, but called for clear communication of the rationale for any local lockdown and financial support for nurseries in the unlikely event they have to temporarily close.
The Alliance published results of a survey of over 2,00 parents of children under five in England earlier this week. It showed 49% said that the government hasn’t done enough to support parents to access the childcare they need during the pandemic. A third (34%) said that difficulties accessing childcare since the easing of lockdown had had a negative impact on their work life, rising to nearly half (48%) of parents living in the most deprived local authority areas.
Meanwhile, over a quarter (27%) said that difficulties accessing childcare since the easing of lockdown had had a negative impact on their mental health, rising to over a third (36%) of parents living in the most deprived local authorities areas. One in 10 had not been able to access formal childcare at all since the easing of lockdown despite wanting to do so.