It will soon be time for a new school year, and while I hope that we will not see the disruption experienced during the last academic year as we know children's wellbeing is made better from the social interaction and structure that school provides, we are still living in the midst of COVID-19 and the effects will still have some impact.
We’ve been working closely with schools to ensure a safe return to the classroom following the changes to Government guidance and all schools have their own outbreak management plans.
As you will be aware, the system of "bubbles" - where children only mix within a fixed year or class group - has ended, and schools will no longer be required to stagger start and finish times or avoid children and young people mixing at lunch or in the playground.
Face coverings are no longer required for staff or pupils in school, although they're still recommended in crowded spaces such as on school buses.
Testing and contact tracing
Our Public Health Team will no longer be the lead for schools contact tracing – this is being picked up by the Department for Education via a dedicated helpline. Our team will continue to provide advice and support where needed, including outbreak management.
Self-testing before term will help reduce the risk of transmission and I encourage secondary school pupils to take part in regular twice-weekly testing throughout September.
Testing can help reduce the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools. This, in turn, can help reduce the likelihood that staff or children and young people will have to self-isolate due to outbreaks.
Any pupil under 18 who tests positive for Covid will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate.
The child - or their parents - will be asked to provide information about close contacts at school and elsewhere, and their contact details, if known.
Under-18s who are named as close contacts will be asked to take a PCR test but will not have to self-isolate unless they themselves test positive.
Secondary school pupils and staff are being asked to continue self-testing twice a week, beginning a week before the start of term. This advice will be reviewed at the end of September.
Please keep your child at home and get them a PCR test as soon as possible if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.