Families urged to work with schools & colleges to help keep virus rates down as schools return

Published Friday 27 August 2021 at 12:12

Public health experts are calling for families to work together with schools and colleges as thousands of children and young adults prepare to head back to the classroom.

Blackburn with Darwen’s primary and secondary schools and colleges will begin to re-open on Wednesday September 1, following a much-needed summer break.

On their return, pupils and students in secondary schools and colleges are encouraged to take two on-site Covid-19 tests.

Following on from that, pupils and students are encouraged to continue to take their free, rapid Covid tests at home twice a week, ensuring they report their results online.

If a school, college or childcare setting experiences a positive case of Covid-19, a change in the law means that close contacts will not have to self-isolate if they are under 18, or double-jabbed.

Close contacts will be strongly advised to take a PCR test, although they will only need to isolate if they test positive.

Pupils and students eligible for a Covid vaccine are also being encouraged to take up the offer and get their jab at one of Lancashire’s vaccination sites – since last week 16 and 17 year olds are eligible for Covid jabs.

Due to restrictions easing across England, face masks are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors either in classrooms or in communal areas.

While the government has removed the requirement to wear face coverings in law, it recommends they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don’t normally meet. This includes on public transport and dedicated transport to school or college.

If a school, college or childcare setting experiences a number of positive cases, then some temporary measures may be introduced to slow the spread of the virus and mitigate disruption.

Prof Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

Over the last 18 months, our children have lost enough days of their education. As the new school and college terms start, we want to work together with parents and guardians, and pupils/students themselves to keep everyone safe and keep our Covid rates – which are now among the lowest in the country – down.

We do expect a slight surge in new cases due to the fact many young people will have not tested over the summer holidays and, with the majority being asymptomatic, are likely to not know they’re infectious. However, we hope this will settle down into a low level of cases identified through testing.

Most of the cases identified initially are unlikely to be related to school-based outbreaks, but cases picked up during the holidays.

It’s crucial to follow the new guidance, get tested, help to isolate positive cases and keep more of our children in education.

We’re grateful to the leaders of all our educational establishments in Blackburn with Darwen who continue to work closely with us and offer their support to our Covid response.

Abdul Razaq, Acting Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, added:

Schools have worked strenuously during the last 18 months to keep our children, and our education staff, safe from Covid-19.

Unfortunately, this has sometimes negatively impacted their education, despite the best efforts of education staff, who have been incredible through the pandemic.

We now know that the risk of severe illness in children and young people is low, while there are significant harms associated with missed education.

This is why it is so crucial that we help to manage the virus going forward by continuing to test twice-weekly using free, rapid Covid tests.

This will help us spot positive cases in people with no symptoms, breaking the chain of transmission and keeping any disruption to our children’s education to an absolute minimum.

There are three main changes to the Covid guidance for schools and colleges:

  1. Keeping pupils or students in year group or classroom bubbles to reduce mixing is no longer a requirement.
  2. Close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace. Education settings are no longer expected to undertake contact tracing themselves.
  3. Face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors either in classrooms or in communal areas.

More information about Coronavirus testing arrangements for secondary schools and colleges is available at www.bit.ly/bwdschooltesting.

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