Further education providers are being asked to remain “on-call” up to the day before Christmas eve to assist with contact tracing, but will be able to decide when they can be contacted.

New guidance sent out to providers by the Department for Education today, seen by FE Week, says it has agreed with Public Health England a six-day window after the final day of teaching in which FE providers and schools will be asked to remain contactable.

This is in order to help with tracing people who have been in contact with positive Covid-19 cases, with the guidance reading: “This will allow enough time for positive coronavirus cases to be identified and confirmed by a test and for relevant contacts in the education setting to be traced.”

Although providers have flexibility to set their own term dates, the department has advised them to finish face-to-face teaching on 17 December, to give a cut-off date for the six day window of 23 December.

“This change does not diminish our view that colleges should continue to maximise access to face-to-face teaching, supplemented by some remote education,” the guidance continues, adding: “If the amount of face-to-face planned hours for students are reduced before the end of term, we expect that additional face to face planned hours will be provided before the end of the study programme.”

After those six days, further education providers will not be reached by NHS Test and Trace for contact tracing.

The guidance also says that during those six days, staff are not being asked to be on-call at all times, and may set a limited period in the day to receive notification of positive cases so they can advise contacts of that case to self-isolate.