System of controls: infection protection and control
In this section, where something is essential for public health reasons, as advised by Public Health England (PHE), we have said ‘must’. Where there is a legal requirement we have made that clear. This guidance does not create any new legal obligations.
This is the set of essential public health actions you must take. They are grouped into ‘prevention’ and ‘response to any infection’. If you follow the system of controls, you will effectively reduce risks in your setting and create an inherently safer environment.
These measures will be reviewed in partnership with health experts to decide whether evidence suggests that these measures can be eased ahead of the summer holidays.
Additional measures for children or staff may be advised for a temporary period in response to particular localised outbreaks, including variants of concern. In all cases, any educational or wellbeing drawbacks should be balanced with the benefits of managing transmission.
These measures are detailed within the contingency framework for education and childcare which describes how education and childcare settings should plan for spikes in infection in their local areas. All education and childcare settings should have outbreak management plans outlining how they would operate if any of the measures described within the contingency framework were recommended in their area.
Providers (including their staff where applicable) must always:
1. Prevent contact with individuals who are required to self-isolate by ensuring they do not attend your setting.
2. Ensure face coverings are used in recommended circumstances.
3. Ensure everyone is advised to clean their hands thoroughly and more often than usual.
4. Ensure good respiratory hygiene for everyone by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach.
5. Maintain enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products such as detergents.
6. Consider how to minimise contact across the site and maintain social distancing wherever possible.
7. Keep occupied spaces well ventilated.
In specific circumstances:
8. Ensure individuals wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary.
9. Promote and engage in asymptomatic testing, where available.
Response to any infection
Providers (including their staff where applicable) must always:
10. Promote and engage with the NHS Test and Trace process.
11. Manage and report confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst the setting community.
12. Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice.
Children and young people, staff and other adults must not come into your setting if:
- they have one or more COVID-19 symptoms
- a member of their household (including someone in their support bubble or childcare bubble, if they have one) has COVID-19 symptoms or had a positive test
- they are legally required to quarantine, having recently visited countries outside the common travel area
- they have had a positive test
When an individual develops COVID-19 symptoms or has a positive test
They must immediately cease to attend and not attend for at least 10 full days from:
- the start of their symptoms
- the test date if they did not have any symptoms but have had a positive LFD test (if a PCR test is then taken within 2 days of the positive lateral flow test, and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test and the child or staff member can return to the setting)
You must follow this process and ensure everyone onsite or visiting is aware of it.
Anyone told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace or by their public health protection team, has a legal obligation to self-isolate, but you may leave home to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm. Find out more from NHS Test and Trace: how it works
If anyone in your setting develops a new and continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), you:
Other members of their household (including any siblings and members of their support or childcare bubble if they have one) should self-isolate. Their isolation period includes the day symptoms started for the first person in their household and the next 10 full days. If a member of the household starts to display symptoms while self-isolating, they will need to restart the 10-day isolation period and book a test.
If a child in your setting displays symptoms and is awaiting collection, they should:
- move to a well-ventilated room, if possible, where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on the age of the child and with appropriate adult supervision
- a window should also be opened for ventilation if it is safe to do so
- stay at least 2 metres away from other people
- use a separate bathroom if possible, which must be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else
PPE should be worn by staff caring for the child while they await collection if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.
In an emergency, call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital, unless advised to. Find out how to manage and report confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst the out-of-school settings community.
Any member of staff who has provided close contact care to someone with symptoms, regardless of whether they are wearing PPE, and all other members of staff or children who have been in close contact with that person, do not need to go home to self-isolate unless:
- the symptomatic person subsequently tests positive
- they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should self-isolate immediately and arrange to have a test)
- they are requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or the Public Health England (PHE) advice service (or PHE local health protection team if escalated), which is a legal obligation
- they have tested positive from an LFD test as part of a community or worker programme
Everyone must wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and running water or use hand sanitiser after any contact with someone who has symptoms. The area around the person with symptoms must be cleaned after they have left, to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people. COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance has more information.
2. Ensure face coverings are used in recommended circumstances
Since 17 May, face coverings are no longer recommended in classrooms and in all communal areas for children in year 7 (or of equivalent age, such as those who were aged 11 on 31 August 2020) and above.
Face coverings are no longer recommended for staff in classrooms.
We continue to recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and visitors in situations outside of classrooms where social distancing is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas).
Out-of-school settings should refer to Guidance: Face coverings in education and childcare for information on:
- the safe wearing and removal of face coverings
- possible reasonable adjustments
Out-of-school settings (including private sector wraparound childcare providers) operating in community settings, such as village halls or community centres, must comply with requirements on the use of face coverings in these premises and should follow the guidance on Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own.
3. Ensure everyone is advised to clean their hands thoroughly and more often than usual
COVID-19 is an easy virus to kill when it is on skin. This can be done with soap and water or hand sanitiser. You must ensure that children clean their hands regularly, including:
- when they arrive at your setting
- when they return from breaks
- when they change rooms
- before and after eating
Consider how often children and staff will need to wash their hands and incorporate time in for this. Staff working with children who spit uncontrollably may want more opportunities to wash their hands than other staff. Children who use saliva as a sensory stimulant or who struggle with ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ may also need more opportunities to wash their hands.
Continue to help children with complex needs to clean their hands properly.
Frequent and thorough hand cleaning should now be regular practice. You should consider:
- whether you have enough hand washing or hand sanitiser stations available so that all children and staff can clean their hands regularly
- if you need to supervise hand sanitiser use given the risks around ingestion – skin friendly skin cleaning wipes can be used as an alternative
- building these routines into your setting’s culture, supported by behaviour expectations and helping ensure younger pupils and those with complex needs understand the need to follow them
The ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach continues to be very important. Make sure enough tissues and bins are available to support children and staff to follow this routine. As with hand cleaning, you must ensure younger children and those with complex needs are helped to get this right, and all pupils understand that this is now part of how the setting operates. e-Bug COVID-19 has free resources for schools, including materials to encourage good hand and respiratory hygiene.
Some children with complex needs will struggle to maintain as good respiratory hygiene as their peers, for example those who spit uncontrollably or use saliva as a sensory stimulant. This should be considered in risk assessments in order to support these children and the staff working with them and is not a reason to deny these children a place at your setting.
5. Maintain enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products, such as detergents
In line with the risk assessment and timetabling of activities in your setting, put in place and maintain an enhanced cleaning schedule. This should include:
- more frequent cleaning of rooms or shared areas that are used by different groups
- frequently touched surfaces being cleaned more often than normal
- cleaning toilets regularly
- encouraging children to wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet
- if your site allows it, allocating different groups their own toilet blocks
PHE has published guidance for cleaning non-healthcare settings. This contains advice on the general cleaning required in addition to the existing advice on cleaning when there is a suspected case.
6. Consider how to minimise contact and maintain social distancing across the site wherever possible
Minimising contacts and mixing between people reduces transmission of COVID-19. This is important in all contexts, and you must consider how to implement this.
The overarching principle to apply is reducing the number of contacts between children and staff. This can be achieved through keeping groups separate and consistent – read the section considering group sizes – and through maintaining distance between individuals.
You should encourage children and young people to maintain social distancing as far as possible. This should also be observed by staff members and parents and carers at pick up and drop off.
Staff members and children and young people within the setting, should also maintain social distancing as far as possible.
There will be some situations where social distancing is not possible, for example between younger children or in outdoor sports and activities. Therefore it is important that the other protective measures outlined in this guidance are implemented.
7. Keep occupied spaces well ventilated
Good ventilation reduces the concentration of the virus in the air, which reduces the risks from airborne transmission. This happens when people breathe in small particles (aerosols) in the air after someone with the virus has occupied an enclosed area.
When your setting is in operation, it is important to ensure it is well ventilated and a comfortable childcare or teaching environment is maintained. These can be achieved by a variety of measures including:
- mechanical ventilation systems – these should be adjusted to increase the ventilation rate wherever possible, and checked to confirm that normal operation meets current guidance and that only fresh outside air is circulated. If possible, systems should be adjusted to full fresh air or, if not, then systems should be operated as normal as long as they are within a single room and supplemented by an outdoor air supply)
- natural ventilation – opening windows (in cooler weather windows should be opened just enough to provide constant background ventilation, and opened more fully during breaks to purge the air in the space). Opening internal doors can also assist with creating a throughput of air
- opening external doors if necessary (as long as they are not fire doors and where safe to do so)
The Health and Safety Executive guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the COVID-19 outbreak and CIBSE COVID-19 Advice provides more information.
To balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature, consider:
- opening high level windows in colder weather in preference to low level to reduce draughts
- increasing the ventilation while spaces are unoccupied
- providing flexibility to allow additional, suitable indoor clothing
- rearranging furniture where possible to avoid direct draughts
Heating should be used as necessary to ensure comfort levels are maintained particularly in occupied spaces.
8. Ensure individuals wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary
Most staff in out-of-school settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work. Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment).
PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases, for example:
- children, young people and learners whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE
- if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained from any child, young person or other learner displaying COVID-19 symptoms
More information on the use of PPE is available in the guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings.
Providers should use their local supply chains to obtain required PPE. They may also be able to source PPE and cleaning products through the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) ‘Safer Working Supplies’ Portal. In addition, public sector buying organisations have pre-existing experience and relationships across our sector. Some of these organisations have e-catalogues offering PPE and cleaning products, including:
9. Promote and engage in asymptomatic testing, where available
Asymptomatic testing will help to break the chains of transmission of COVID-19 in education and childcare settings by identifying asymptomatic positive cases. This is important as up to 1 in 3 people who have the virus have it without symptoms (they are asymptomatic) so could be spreading the disease unknowingly. Staff who test positive then self-isolate, help to reduce transmission of the virus.
Anyone in England who does not have symptoms can now get regular rapid lateral flow tests to check for COVID-19.
Primary school and nursery staff have been supplied with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits to self-swab at home.
For secondary schools, we have moved to a home testing model. The lateral flow devices (LFDs) used have received regulatory approval from the MHRA for self-use. Home test kits will are available for all staff.
Secondary school pupils can collect test kits from their school. When testing at home, students aged 18 and over should self-test and report the result, with assistance if needed, via the NHS Online reporting system for both negative and positive test results. Pupils aged 12-17 should self-test and report their negative or positive result with adult supervision. The adult may conduct the test if necessary.
Public Health England have advised against programmes for LFD testing of primary age pupils. Primary age pupils, particularly younger children, may find the LFD testing process unpleasant and are unable to self-swab.
Staff or children with a positive LFD test result must self-isolate. They should do so in line with the stay-at-home guidance. They will also need to arrange a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result. If the PCR test is taken within 2 days of the positive lateral flow test and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD and the child or staff member can return to the education or childcare setting. Those with a negative LFD test result can also continue to attend education and childcare settings and use protective measures.
More information can be found in:
If you are operating on or linked to, a school, including maintained nurseries, then you should discuss with that school or nursery how your staff can access regular asymptomatic testing. Schools and nurseries should offer testing to all staff who are working in their settings including contractors or peripatetic staff. They should also offer testing to those supporting with wraparound childcare to children currently attending school, as well as other staff members such as clinical practitioners, therapists, other support staff, caterers and volunteers.
Wraparound childcare and out-of-school settings providers who are not linked to a school site can also access twice-weekly asymptomatic testing by any of the following:
For more information see Regular rapid COVID-19 tests if you do not have symptoms.
The asymptomatic testing programme does not replace the current testing policy for those with symptoms. Anyone with symptoms (even if they recently had a negative LFD test result), should still self-isolate immediately according to government guidelines and get a PCR test as soon as possible.
System of controls – response to any infection
The NHS Test and Trace service will help to manage the risk of the virus re-emerging as restrictions on everyday life are eased.
Anyone contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate has a legal obligation to do so, but they may leave home to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm. More information can be found on NHS Test and Trace: how it works.
Staff members, parents and carers will need to:
- book a test if they or their child has symptoms – the main symptoms are:
- a high temperature
- a new continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
- self-isolate immediately and not come to your setting if:
- they develop symptoms
- they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19
- anyone in their household or support or childcare bubble develops symptoms of COVID-19
- they are required to quarantine having recently visited countries outside the common travel area
- they have been notified by NHS test and trace or the PHE local health protection team that they have tested positive
- provide details of anyone they have been in close contact with, if they test positive for COVID-19 or if asked by NHS Test and Trace
Polymerase chain reaction tests (PCR) for symptomatic testing
Anyone who displays symptoms of COVID-19 can and should get a test. Tests for symptomatic illness can be booked online through NHS testing and tracing for COVID-19, or ordered by telephone via NHS 119 for those without access to the internet.
Critical workers, which includes anyone involved in education or childcare, have priority access to testing. All children and young people can be tested if they have symptoms. This includes children under 5, but children aged 11 and under will need to be helped by their parents or carers if using a home testing kit.
Use of the NHS COVID-19 app
Please refer to the guidance on the use of the NHS COVID-19 app in schools and further education colleges for more information. The app is available to download for anyone aged 16 and over.
Test and Trace support payments
Individuals who are self-isolating and are unable to work from home may lose income as a result. These individuals may be entitled to a Test and Trace support payment of £500, payable as a lump sum from local authorities.
To be eligible for a Test and Trace support payment, the individual must be living in England, meet the eligibility criteria and be formally advised to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, who will provide them with an NHS Test and Trace Account ID.
Find out about applying for a Test and Trace Support Payment.
You must take swift action when you become aware that someone who has attended has tested positive for COVID-19.
If they test positive, NHS Test and Trace will speak directly to those they have been in contact with. This may mean that the rest of their group or bubble will be required to self-isolate. If this is the case, they will be advised to self-isolate immediately and for at least the next 10 full days counting from the day after contact with the individual who tested positive. It is a legal requirement for an individual to self-isolate if they have been told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
To support NHS Test and Trace in reaching close contacts, you should keep a record of:
- close contact between children and staff in specific groups or rooms
- the timing of the activities and interactions
Records should be kept for 21 days.
You should also inform your local authority of a positive case in your setting. Where more detailed local arrangements are in place with the local authority, and are working, your setting can continue to receive support through that route to take action in response to a positive case.
Household members of those contacts who are sent home do not need to self-isolate themselves unless the pupil or staff member who is self-isolating subsequently develops symptoms, or they have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, in which case they must self-isolate – this is a legal obligation. If someone in a class or group that has been asked to self-isolate develops symptoms themselves within the 10 days from the day after contact with the individual who tested positive, they should follow guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.
You should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation.
If a child, young person or staff member develops COVID-19 symptoms but tests negative, they can return to your setting. If they remain unwell, they should not return until they have recovered.
12. Contain any outbreak by following PHE local health protection team advice
If you have 2 or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or an overall rise in sickness absence where COVID-19 is suspected, you may have an outbreak.
You should work with your local health protection team who will be able to advise if additional action is required. In some cases, health protection teams may recommend that a larger number of other children self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure. This could be the whole site or bubble.
If you are implementing the protective measures in this guidance, addressing any issues you have identified and therefore reducing transmission risks, whole site closure will not generally be necessary. You should not consider closing except on the advice of health protection teams.