What does Plan B mean for schools? How new rules affect children and nativity plays

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It comes as experts warn cases of the omicron Covid strain are doubling in just 2.5 to three days – with the government stressing changes are not a lockdown and pupils must remain in school

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Boris Johnson announces move to ‘Plan B’ for Covid restrictions

Boris Johnson last night brought in new ‘Plan B’ coronavirus restrictions, with new rules on vaccine passports, face coverings and work from home advice.

It comes as experts warn cases of the omicron Covid strain are doubling in just 2.5 to three days – up from seven days for the Delta variant.

New Plan B rules urge people to work from home from Monday, wear face masks in more settings from Friday and show vaccine passports to gain entrance to some venues.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new strain “has made the virus an even more formidable foe” and although there are only 568 confirmed Omicron cases in the UK, “we know the actual number of infections will be significantly higher.”

Boris Johnson stressed the new restrictions were not a lockdown and said children would not be taken out of school and Christmas school events would not be cancelled.

But how could the new rules affect your school life for you and your children? We answer some of your questions here

Secondary pupils and teachers are advised to wear masks in communal areas
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Face coverings

While face coverings in schools are not mandated, the National Union of Teachers and the government advise masks to be worn by pupils and staff in secondary communal areas and by primary school staff in communal areas.

They say this should be extended to secondary classrooms for staff and students.

Social distancing and bubbles

Earlier in the year, schoolchildren were placed in groups of or ‘bubbles’ in order to prevent mixing – while all lessons remained in one classroom so children were not moving around the school.

Under Plan B, there is no guidance for bubbles to return – meaning if a single pupil in a specific cohort tests positive with Covid, the entire class or year does not need to isolate at home.

Some schools have reportedly halted larger, in-person staff meetings in order to cut down on unnecessary mixing of staff.

Nativity plays are still allowed to go ahead
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Assemblies and nativity plays

As we head further into December, many children and parents will be gearing up for the annual Christmas nativity play.

And if you’re looking forward to seeing your little one on-stage, then it’s good news as nativity plays can still go ahead.

When asked about nativity shows, Boris Johnson said: “In my view they should not be. They should follow the guidance of course, but we’re not saying, we don’t want kids to be taken out of school before the end of term, not that there’s very long to go now, we don’t want nativity plays to be cancelled.”

However, some schools in recent weeks have issued guidance for parents attending the Christmas events -while others have asked parents to log-in online to watch the plays instead of in person.

Falkirk Council has banned school events and trips in the run up to Christmas in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus, the Daily Record reports.

However, one devastated mum has launched a petition against the decision to bar parents from the play at Kinnaird Primary School, in Larbert, near Falkirk, Scotland, on December 2.

Debbie Sneddon, whose son Cameron, five, is set to play a shepherd, said parents will miss precious memories’ if they are not allowed to attend.

Pupils are expected to. undergo onsite testing when they return after Christmas
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Testing

Testing in schools has not changed under Plan B, with most schools now testing pupils twice a week via lateral flow tests at home.

When pupils return from the Christmas break, current plans mean they will take one test in school.

Currently, anybody identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant will be required to self-isolate and book a PCR test, reports Schools Week.

However, the government plans to introduce daily contact testing “as soon as possible” as an alternative for Omicron close contacts who are fully vaccinated, or under the age of 18 years and six months.

Inspections

However, some schools in recent weeks have issued guidance for parents attending the Christmas events
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Inspections of schools are expected to be cancelled.

The cancellations cover schools, early years and colleges. Inspections will only go ahead if there are safeguarding concerns.

Ofsted has confirmed secondary schools will not be inspected, unless there are urgent concerns, during the first week of schools’ return in January.

The cancellations in January will allow for onsite pupil testing in secondaries.

An Ofsted email states: “Ofsted inspections will continue to play an important role in providing independent assurance as schools and colleges continue to respond to the pandemic.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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