Reassuring parents amid rising Covid rates in schools & colleges

Published Wednesday 22 September 2021 at 10:07

As Covid case rates in Blackburn with Darwen’s schools and colleges increase, health and education leaders are reassuring parents that they are working closely with schools to keep pupils and staff safe.

The borough’s Covid case rate stands at 231.3 per 100,000 people*, which is below the regional and England average rate, and the lowest in all Lancashire areas.

However, the age group with the current highest rates in Blackburn with Darwen is 12 to 15 year olds, with schools expected to have a contingency in place should case rates rise above the  Department for Education’s threshold.

The borough’s Director of Public Health, Prof Dominic Harrison, explained how the increase in infections had been expected. He said:

Based on what we saw happening in Scotland after the return of schools and colleges, we did anticipate increases in our Covid case rates among children and young people in education.

Cases early in the school year would have been transmitted by asymptomatic children who returned to school with the virus, having become infected in late summer through household or community transmission.

But as children are mixing in education settings again, and with many schools and colleges removing restrictions that kept year groups separate, it is inevitable that Coronavirus will spread.

Following the government’s changes to self-isolation rules, children and young people aren’t having to needlessly self-isolate, missing out on any more days of learning.

The changes introduced on 16 August mean that anyone under the age of 18, as well as everyone who is double-jabbed, no longer needs to self-isolate when they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid.

Close contacts are encouraged to get a PCR test as soon as possible – but they do not need to isolate while awaiting their result.

Coun Julie Gunn, Executive Member for Children, Young People & Education, said:

Our Education Response team is working closely with schools and colleges to support them to respond quickly to reports of positive cases. Parents should continue to alert their child’s school whenever a child gets a positive result on a rapid test or on a PCR test.

The team is also closely monitoring case rates in secondary schools and colleges to help identify clusters of infections or larger outbreaks, and will work with headteachers to put in place any necessary additional measures to prevent further transmission within the education setting – this could be the reintroduction of face coverings for a short period, for example.

I want to say a big thank you to all the parents and carers who have consented for their children to take part in regular testing for Covid using lateral flow or rapid tests. Testing is the best way to identify anyone with Covid who hasn’t got symptoms and doesn’t realise they are infectious, and to protect those people around them.

Pupils and students are encouraged to continue to take free, rapid Covid tests at home twice a week, ensuring they report their results online. Children and young people with parental consent to take part in regular asymptomatic testing have already been provided with a number of rapid testing kits to use at home.

The government last week confirmed that healthy 12 to 15 year olds will be offered one dose of the Covid vaccine.

Prof Harrison added:

This is good news for our borough. With 23% of Blackburn with Darwen residents under the age of 16 years – the 8th youngest population in all areas of England – it’s important to the borough’s level of herd immunity to vaccinate 12 to 15 year olds.

Given what we know about the likely continuing spread of the virus over winter, it is highly likely that most young people will be exposed to Covid infection at some point in the coming months.

Vaccinating this age group will help to prevent further spread of Coronavirus through our schools and also through household transmission, preventing more infections and possibly also avoidable deaths.

Find more information about testing for Covid in schools at


*confirmed data to 15 September 2021

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