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Guidance for childcare and educational settings in the management of COVID-19

Last Updated 1:34pm, 26 August 2021


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The Public Health England South West Health Protection Team (PHE SW HPT) has provided the following guidance about the management of COVID-19 for childcare and educational settings.

Prevent the spread of infection by maintaining high standards of hygiene, including hand washing and regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. This will help prevent COVID-19, as well as other infectious diseases, spreading in schools. If you have any infection control concerns or questions please call the Department for Education (DfE) advice line on 0800 046 8687.

You should only call the HPT on 0300 303 8162 if advised to do so by the DfE advice line, or if you meet the criteria in the guidance below. The HPT do not need to be notified unless you meet the criteria.

Guidance about what all schools will need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is available on the government website.

For information about testing, please visit the NHS website or call 119.

Possible case in child or staff member

  • Ensure the case isolates, arranges a PCR test and informs you of the result. Household members should also isolate, unless they are fully vaccinated or under 18 and six months, until the
    results are known.

    • If the child is in the setting, isolate away from others and send home –  refer to PPE guidance if personal care is required within 2m.
  • If the possible case cannot, or will not, get a PCR test, they will need to isolate for 10 days from the date their symptoms started.
  • Clean and disinfect rooms the suspected case was using – ensure appropriate PPE are used (see cleaning section below).
  • No further action is needed until the test result is known.
  • If the test is negative, the case can return once well and at least 24 hours fever free (without medication). Isolating household members can also stop self-isolating and carry on as normal.
  • If the test is positive, please follow the confirmed case process below.

Confirmed case in child or staff member

  • Ensure the cases isolate for 10 days. Household of the case isolates for 10 days (unless fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and 6 months).
    • If the confirmed case has not been in the setting during the infectious period (2 days before symptoms to 10 days after) then no further action needs to be taken by the school.
  • If positive test came from an infectious period LFD test, case should take a confirmatory PCR test within 48 hours of the LFD.
    • If the follow up PCR is negative and the case has no symptoms, the case can stop isolating.
  • For a student/child: Following a PCR positive, NHS Test and Trace (T&T) will speak to the case (or their parent/carer) to identify close contacts and provide testing and isolation advice as required. NHS T&T will advise close contacts to get a PCR test.
  • For a member of staff: Settings should identify any close contact co-workers and report these to the self-isolation Self Service Hub (020 3743 6715). NHS T&T will then make contact to advise on isolation (if not fully vaccinated) and testing. Staff and children who do not need to isolate should continue to attend school as normal.
  • Clean and disinfect affected rooms and areas – ensure appropriate PPE are used (see cleaning section below).
  • Cases and any isolating contacts can return once the isolation period is completed (so long as they are well).

Two or more confirmed cases in the same group or class

  • Follow the process for a possible/confirmed for each case
  • Reinforce infection prevention measures throughout your setting including baseline measures (see below) and:
    • Rapid isolation of possible and confirmed cases
    • Good hand and respiratory hygiene
    • Good ventilation of indoor spaces
    • Regular cleaning of frequently touched areas
  • Report outbreak for risk assessment if you meet the below threshold(s) via DfE helpline (0800 046 8687) or via your local process.

Further information

As of 18 May 2020, a COVID-19 case definition is as follows:

  • A high temperature
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste

The infectious period is defined as the two days before the onset of symptoms to 10 days after onset. If the case has no symptoms but a positive test, treat the two days prior to test as the infectious period.

A possible case is defined as child or staff member with a new continuous cough and/or high temperature and/or loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia) prior to PCR testing.

A confirmed case is defined as PCR or LFD positive case with or without symptoms.

You should seek a follow up PCR test following an LFD positive test at home or at an assisted site. Staff and pupils with a positive LFD test result should self-isolate in line with government guidance. If the PCR is negative, and the case remains symptom free, the case can stop isolating.

If any staff or pupils develop COVID19 symptoms, you should always seek a PCR test. LFD tests should not be used on people with symptoms or on children under the age of 11 years old.

Baseline measures

Ensure baseline measures and outbreak control measures are in place:

  • Regularly review and update risk assessments for proportionate control measures.
  • Implement a contingency plan setting out how the school would operate if additional measures were recommended in their setting to control an outbreak.
  • Follow advice on COVID-19 testing in educational settings.
  • Follow advice on managing a case of COVID-19 in your setting.
  • Practice good hand and respiratory hygiene.
  • Appropriate use of PPE.
  • Ensure good ventilation of indoor spaces.
  • Maintain appropriate cleaning regimes.
  • Deliver strong messaging about signs and symptoms, isolation advice and testing, to support prompt isolation of suspected cases.
  • Encourage vaccination uptake for eligible students and staff.

Cleaning and waste

Please refer to the cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home guidance available on the government website.

Enhanced cleaning should already be in place.

Following a suspected or confirmed case in the setting:

  • PPE should be worn for cleaning – minimum gloves and disposable apron. Consider using face mask and eye protection if risk is high – for example, when cleaning areas where there are visible bodily fluids.
  • Clean public areas, such as corridors, as normal.
  • Surfaces that could be contaminated need cleaning and disinfection.
  • All frequently touched surfaces (door handles, taps, table tops, keyboards etc.) should also be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Use disposable cloths or paper roll, disposable mop heads to clean hard surfaces (e.g. floors, sanitary fittings, chairs, tables)
  • Use a combined detergent and disinfectant or use a two-stage cleaning process of detergent (household-type cleaner) followed by a hypochlorite solution (1,000ppm) – for example, diluted Milton sterilising fluid (please check that the chemicals in use are effective against enveloped viruses).
  • Avoid splashes and spray when cleaning where possible.
  • Any COVID-19 related waste should be double-bagged and stored for 72 hours before usual disposal.

Five key principles

  1. Stay at home if ill
  2. Wash your hands and catch your coughs!
  3. Clean! Clean! Clean!
  4. Reduce mixing and maximise distance
  5. Engage with Test and Trace