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30th Sept 2020

Updated guidance on the public health arrangements for autumn exams

We have updated our guidance on the public health arrangements for autumn exams. This guidance is for school and college senior leaders, heads of exam centres, and staff involved in exam delivery. It sets out the expectation that schools and colleges will run autumn series exams, including schools or colleges who are only open for smaller student groups. We also expect schools and colleges in areas under local restrictions to run exams.

This guidance provides information on what schools or colleges should do if:

  • they are located in areas of local restrictions
  • a candidate misses exams in the autumn series
  • a candidate tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)

This guidance should be read alongside:

Remote education webinars for primary and secondary school leaders – today and tomorrow

We are offering two school-led webinars on remote education to help share good practice with school leaders in primary and secondary schools. During these webinars school leaders will be sharing what has worked for them in getting their schools set up to deliver remote education. They will last for 45 minutes and presenters will also answer questions from the audience.

Schools can attend the webinars using the Microsoft Teams links below:

Each webinar is limited to a capacity of 10,000 viewers, however if you are unable to attend, recordings of each webinar will be available to watch after the live events through the Department for Education YouTube channel.

Ordering additional coronavirus (COVID-19) tests

An online portal is now live for schools and further education providers to order additional coronavirus (COVID-19) test kits if they have run out, or are running out, of their initial 10 kits supplied for use in line with our guidance.

You will be able to make a new order for test kits 21 days after you receive a delivery confirmation email telling you that your previous supply of test kits has been sent. These kits are only for those who develop one of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and face significant barriers to accessing a test. In particular, they will help schools and colleges get their symptomatic staff who test negative back to work as soon as they feel well enough, to ensure the continuity of education for pupils and students. It is for schools and further education providers to determine how to prioritise the distribution of their test kits in order to minimise the impact of the virus on the education of their pupils or students.

The unique organisation number (UON) for ordering new test kits was emailed to schools and further education providers by the Department of Health and Social Care on 16 September. If you have not received your UON you can now look it up using your unique reference number (URN) or your UK provider reference number (UKPRN) or by calling the Test and Trace helpdesk on 119.

Your delivery will be made by 4pm, and someone must be on site to receive it. Otherwise, Royal Mail will leave a calling card so that you can arrange re-delivery or collect it from your local sorting office.

Tests conducted at a testing site will deliver the fastest results. Individuals must book a test in advance or they will not be given a test. People can also order home test kits to be sent directly to them. These routes remain the primary channels for people displaying coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms to get a test.

Information education settings should have to hand when they call for advice on a positive case

Public Health England’s (PHE) dedicated advice service, delivered by NHS Business Services Authority, is available to early years settings, schools, colleges and out of school settings. The service is for those needing support on the action they should take when they have been informed of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their setting (i.e. a pupil or staff member testing positive).

It can be reached by calling the Department for Education coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selecting option 1 to report a positive test within your setting. This option will take you through to a dedicated team of NHS Business Services Authority advisors who will work through a risk assessment with you to identify close contacts, and will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice. Advisors will be responsible for referring more complex cases to the PHE regional health protection team, as necessary, following a triaging of your circumstances during the call.

Phone: 0800 046 8687 – option 1 to report a positive test within your setting

Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm
Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm

When you call for advice, please have the following information to hand relating to the positive coronavirus (COVID-19) case in your setting as you will need to discuss this with the call adviser:

  • the number of positive cases in your setting, whether the person who tested positive is displaying symptoms and if so, the date of the onset of the symptoms (if known)
  • the dates that the person who tested positive was in attendance at the setting so that we can identify if the person was infections whilst on site
  • for key stage 2, 3, 4 and 5, the seating plan for all lessons, and (where relevant) the timetable, for the person who has tested positive. This will help to support identification of close contacts with that person
  • for key stage 2, 3, 4 and 5, if the person who has tested positive is a member of staff, records of any instance of close contact with other members of staff or students
  • if the person who has tested positive is a pupil, records of any definite face to face contact with the individual and details of their friendship group within the setting

This dedicated advice service is designed to expand the options available for support to education settings, and we would expect that most education settings would contact this service in the first instance. This approach will free up capacity of PHE’s regional health protection teams to deal with more complex cases and outbreaks. You should continue to inform your local authority of a positive case in your setting.

We recognise that some local authorities have put more detailed local arrangements in place for their education settings with their local authority health protection team. Where those local arrangements are available and working, you can continue to receive support through that route to take action in response to a positive case.