Safety in schools
As Covid-19 becomes a virus that we learn to live with, it is now vital to reduce the disruption to children and young people's education.
Our priority is for schools to deliver face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils. The evidence is clear that being out of education causes significant harm to educational attainment, life chances, mental and physical health.
Vaccination for pupils aged 12+ and the adults they live with offers the best protection available, not just against serious illness, but also against further disruption to education.
All schools will have completed a COVID-19 specific risk assessment to identify the measures needed to help keep our children, school staff and their families as safe as possible whilst they are at school. The main measures for schools are:
- Ensuring good hygiene for everyone (hand and respiratory, use of PPE where required)
- Maintaining appropriate cleaning regimes with regular cleaning of areas and equipment, with a particular focus on frequently touched surfaces
- Keeping occupied spaces such as classrooms well ventilated, while maintaining a comfortable temperature
- Following public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases of Covid-19
Testing remains essential in reducing the risk of virus transmission within schools. All school staff and secondary school pupils are encouraged to undertake twice weekly lateral flow device (LFD) routine testing at home.
Staff and pupils with a positive LFD test result should self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. They will also need to get a free PCR test to check if they have Covid-19.
Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the individual should continue to self-isolate.
If the PCR test is taken within 2 days of the positive lateral flow test, and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test and the pupil/staff member can return to school, as long as the individual doesn't have Covid-19 symptoms.
If a child or staff member shows symptoms of Covid-19 while at school
If a child shows symptoms:
- They will be isolated immediately and looked after by a member of staff (personal protective equipment will be worn by staff caring for the pupil while they await collection if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained).
- A parent/carer will be contacted immediately so arrangements can be made for the child to be collected.
- They will then be sent home as soon as possible. They should self-isolate straight away and get a PCR test on GOV.UK.
If the test result is negative and your child feels well and no longer has symptoms similar to Covid-19, they can stop self-isolating. They could still have another virus, such as a cold or flu - in which case it is still best to avoid contact with other people until they are better.
Any staff member who develops symptoms of Covid-19 whilst at school will be sent home and advised to have a PCR test.
Close contact tracing in school settings
Close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace and school settings will no longer be expected to undertake close contact tracing.
As with positive cases in any other setting, NHS Test and Trace will work with the positive case and/or their parent to identify close contacts. Contacts from a school setting will only be traced by NHS Test and Trace where the positive case and/or their parent specifically identifies the individual as being a close contact. This is likely to be a small number of individuals who would be most at risk of contracting Covid-19 due to the nature of the close contact.
Schools may be contacted in exceptional cases to help with identifying close contacts, as currently happens in managing other infectious diseases.
Individuals are not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with Covid-19, or are a close contact of someone with Covid-19, and any of the following apply:
- they are fully vaccinated -this means 14 days have passed since your final dose of a Covid-19 vaccine given by the NHS
- they are below the age of 18 years and 6 months
- they have taken part in or are currently part of an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial
- they are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
Instead, they will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace, informed they have been in close contact with a positive case and advised to take a PCR test. We would encourage all individuals to take a PCR test if advised to do so.
Children and young people aged under 18 years 6 months (who usually attend school) and have been identified as a close contact, should continue to attend school as normal.
If your child or someone in your household develops symptoms
The main symptoms of Covid-19 are:
- high temperature - this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- a new, continuous cough - this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste - this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
If your child or anyone in your household develops symptoms of Covid-19 follow this guidance: Stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
If your child is worried about going to school
Some pupils may be experiencing a variety of emotions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as anxiety, stress or low mood and may feel worried about going to school. You can access useful links and sources of support on promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools.
Here are some things you can do to help:
- Talk to your child about how they are feeling about going to school
- Give them as much information as you can about the safety measures in place
- Talk to your school if you have concerns about your child attending
If you have any concerns about safety measures, contact your school direct or you can email us at email@example.com
The public health team in Gateshead will continue to support schools with advice and guidance where required. The Director of Public Health may advise a school to reintroduce some control measures for a temporary period e.g. if there is a substantial increase in the number of positive cases in a school.