Omicron: What you need to know about new guidance for education

Principals told in an email this afternoon about rule changes for face masks and close contact isolation

Principals told in an email this afternoon about rule changes for face masks and close contact isolation

28 Nov 2021, 18:33

More from this author

Face masks should be worn in communal areas and close contacts of people with the new Covid variant Omicron should isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status.

The changes to education Covid guidance (in full below) were communicated to principals in a Department for Education email sent at just after 4pm on Sunday.

A blog by the DfE adds the changes come into force on Monday, and full guidance was published on Monday morning. The guidance covers sixth form colleges, general FE colleges, independent training providers, designated institutions, adult community learning providers and special post-16 institutions.

New measures announced by the government yesterday, including mandatory face coverings in shops and public transport, will start on Tuesday.

Three people with the Omicron variant have now been identified in the UK.

DfE said the measures will be introduced as a “precaution to slow down the spread of the [Omicron] variant while we gather more information”. As such, the measures below are temporary.

“We will continue to keep this under review as the situation develops.”

Here’s what FE settings need to know …

Face masks ‘should’ be worn in communal areas

Face coverings “should be worn by students, staff and adult visitors when moving around FE premises, outside of classrooms or indoor teaching areas, such as in corridors and communal areas.”, the guidance states.

Students should continue to wear face coverings on public and college transport.

It is still the case the face coverings are not required in teaching areas, however FE providers continue to have discretion to require them in particular circumstances. For example, DfE say, “where teaching settings are more reflective of a workplace environment, such as a training kitchen.”

10-day isolation for Omicron close contacts

The current guidance on contact tracing and isolation remains unchanged.

However, in addition, any “suspected or confirmed close contacts of the Omicron variant will be asked to isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status or age”.

Education settings are not expected to undertake contact tracing, with NHS Test and Trace identifying positive cases.

The guidance adds: “You will be contacted directly and told to isolate.”

Re-consider international trips

The guidance says education providers “will want to consider whether to go ahead with planned international educational visits at this time, recognising the risk of disruption to education resulting from the need to isolate and test on arrival back into the UK”.

South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe were moved onto the “red list” on Friday. Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia were added today.

DfE said it had discussed the update with unions ASCL and NAHT, alongside the CST multi-academy trust membership body. They “agreed it would be helpful to issue today rather than wait until Monday”.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi pledged to “continue to prioritise children’s and young people’s education and wellbeing, making sure education and childcare settings are as safe as possible and children continue to benefit from classroom teaching”.

More from this theme


EPI warns of widening disadvantage gap for 16-19 learners

Report prompts renewed calls for 16-19 pupil premium equivalent

Jason Noble

Just £9m of adult education and non-levy apprenticeship relief funding released

Training providers were handed less than £9 million as part of a relief scheme to support adult education courses...

Billy Camden

Williamson provided wine and mince pies for DfE lockdown Xmas party

Sue Gray report finds 50 staff were invited to the 'festive drinks' - organised days in advance

Samantha Booth

Stressed and nervous but determined to prove themselves: the students sitting exams for the first time 

John Dickens, editor of FE Week’s sister publication Schools Week, joined Ofqual chief regulator Dr Jo Saxton as her...

John Dickens

Ofqual reveals how exams and assessments in 2023 will look

Covid-19 related adaptions for VTQs will be scrapped

Billy Camden

Ofsted: Eight key points from latest education recovery research

Providers told Ofsted that apprentices were not being given enough tasks due to pressures on businesses. 

Will Nott

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *