Yesterday (Thursday 17 September) the government set up a new national helpline for schools and colleges to obtain advice and report cases of suspected coronavirus. Instead of seeking help from Public Health England (which is believed to have been overwhelmed by the volume of calls) schools and colleges will be able to obtain 'timely' advice about which pupils/students and members of staff have to be sent home to self isolate.
The government has been criticised for putting school/college leaders in an "impossible situation" because of the delays in getting advice following positive cases. According to the Guardian some heads have had to wait hours and, in the worse cases days, to obtain advice from public health teams.
The new helpline can be reached by calling the DfE's existing helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selecting the option for reporting a positive case. However, it is only open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and from 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sundays. Advisers will decide whether to escalate the matter to the local health protection team and, if that happens, they will work with you to carry out a rapid risk assessment and tell you what steps to take to reduce risk.
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One academy trust leader said that 740 state schools in England were either partially or wholly closed with Covid-related issues, meaning tens of thousands of pupils are stuck at home, with their parents unable to go to work.