DfE helpline for coronavirus cases

Schools who have a confirmed case of coronavirus among their pupils or staff now have access to a Department for Education (DfE) helpline to advise them on the steps they should take. Previously schools had been told to contact local public health officials, but in an email to schools the DfE said they were aware that a number of schools has experienced ‘difficulties getting through to the local public health protection teams’. Education unions have also said they have been contacted by schools who had had difficulty accessing local health advice, with the Association of School and College Leaders saying that it has received more than 50 such reports.

Schools can contact the DfE Helpline on 0800 046 8687 and select option 1 for advice on the action to take in response to a positive case. The line will be available weekdays from 8am to 6pm, and from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. According to the DfE email: ‘This new process will free up capacity of Public Health England’s local health protection teams to deal with more complex cases; for example, special schools and universities or outbreaks where there is more than one confirmed case’. The helpline’s advisers will still be able to escalate a school’s call to their local public health team where it is deemed appropriate.

Speaking about the new helpline service, education secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘The number of confirmed cases in schools remains low but to protect schools it is important headteachers continue to have access to timely support and advice. This new dedicated advice line will help schools, colleges or early years settings to implement the most appropriate public health measures, once a case is confirmed.’

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