The government has made it clear that the new contingency framework for education and childcare settings, which replaces the previous (never used) four-tier Contain Framework may only be initiated following a ministerial decision on a case-by-case basis. This framework is solely for use by ministers where closures of settings are required to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in that community. The guidance is clear that the framework should not be used to address operational challenges, including staff shortages.
In those circumstances, the headteacher should undertake a risk assessment to inform the required steps to ensure that the school is able to operate safely. That assessment should be shared with governors/trustees. In addition, according to DfE guidance, contact is required with one of the bodies set out below:
- childcare and early years settings should contact their local authority
- schools (both academies/trusts and maintained schools should contact their Regional Schools Commissioner
- FE providers should contact their ESFA territorial teams
Schools and colleges would need to have substantial reasons to underpin a decision to fully or partially close. Without such reasons, there is a risk of the DfE directing the school or college, under Schedule 17 of the Coronavirus Act 2020
, to remain open. However, if schools or colleges do have grounds to close, this is a decision that is open to them to take in line with their duties under health and safety legislation.
This FAQ has been written in conjunction with our education law partner, Browne Jacobson