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How will schools/colleges manage confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Schools/colleges will take swift action when they become aware that someone who has attended has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). The local Public Health England health protection team will be contacted. This team will also contact schools directly if they become aware that someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) attended the school – as identified by NHS Test and Trace.

The health protection team will carry out a rapid risk assessment to confirm who has been in close contact with the person during the period that they were infectious, and ensure they are asked to self-isolate.

The health protection team will work with schools/colleges in this situation to guide them through the actions they need to take. Based on the advice from the health protection team, schools must send home those people who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive, advising them to self-isolate for 14 days since they were last in close contact with that person when they were infectious.

Close contact means:

  • direct close contacts - face to face contact with an infected individual for any length of time, within 1 metre, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, or unprotected physical contact (skin-to-skin).
  • extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with an infected individual.
  • travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with an infected person.

The health protection team will provide definitive advice on who must be sent home.

Household members of those contacts who are sent home do not need to self-isolate themselves unless the child, young person or staff member who is self-isolating subsequently develops symptoms.

If someone in a class or group that has been asked to self-isolate develops symptoms themselves within their 14-day isolation period they should follow ‘stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’. They should get a test, and:

  • If the test delivers a negative result, they must remain in isolation for the remainder of the 14-day isolation period. This is because they could still develop the coronavirus (COVID-19) within the remaining days.
  • If the test result is positive, they should inform their setting immediately, and should isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of their symptoms (which could mean the self-isolation ends before or after the original 14-day isolation period). Their household should self-isolate for at least 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms, following ‘stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’.

Process in the event of outbreaks

If a school or college experiences an outbreak, either because they have two or more confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) among pupils or staff in their setting within 14 days, or they see an increase in pupil or staff absence rates due to suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), the school will contact the local Public Health England health protection. This team will advise if additional action is required, though the closure of the whole school or college will generally not be necessary.

Where an outbreak in a school is confirmed, a mobile testing unit may be dispatched to test others who may have been in contact with the person who has tested positive. Testing will first focus on the person’s class, followed by their year group, then the whole school, if necessary.

If your local area sees a spike in infection rates that results in localised community spread, the government will decide what actions need to be taken to contain the spread.

In all cases, where groups of pupils need to self-isolate or where a larger restriction of attendance at school or college is needed, your child’s school or college should provide remote education to continue the child/young person's education.

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