Education Bulletin

Dear colleague, As we begin a new term, I want to thank you for your hard work during the pandemic and update you on how we can work together to […]

Published on 10/09/2021 in Children's services

Dear colleague,

As we begin a new term, I want to thank you for your hard work during the pandemic and update you on how we can work together to ensure a safe return to school. Your persistence in keeping schools safe for pupils and staff has been a tremendous effort thus far. Additional thanks to our secondary school colleagues who have worked hard over the summer break to prepare for on-site return to school testing. 

On return to schools, we anticipate an increase in COVID-19 cases in schools and education settings after summer holidays and in light of governmental changes that went into effect over the summer (removing bubbles, self-isolation changes for close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases). We have been here before, and we have the tools to keep our schools and community safe. Therefore, it is important that we are well prepared by updating our systems and protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please see below some reminders and new national guidance updates on how to keep our schools safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Testing: Key to reducing the spread of the virus, please continue to encourage twice-weekly at home testing in secondary schools and among staff across education settings throughout September, when this will be reviewed. There are now two types of rapid tests (both are lateral flow devices/LFDs) – the original tests are in a blue box and the new tests are in a green box. Please see accompanying instructions on how to administer each here. 

Self-isolation as a contact has ended for double vaccinated people and those under the age of 18:
Pupils under 18 years and 6 months and staff who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to self-isolate if a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case and are asymptomatic. NHS Test and Trace will be responsible for contact tracing in schools and they will work with the positive case directly to identify contacts. Settings may be contacted in exceptional circumstances to provide additional assistance. Self isolation is still a requirement for those with COVID-19 symptoms, a positive test or where they are unvaccinated and identified as a contact by NHS Test and Trace.

After self-isolation, staff DO NOT need to obtain a negative test before returning to work if they completed a full period of self-isolation (10 full days after the positive COVID test date or symptoms onset). Staff may return to work if they have been 48 hours fever-free, even if they still have a cough or a loss of or a change in normal sense of smell or taste. It is not advised to repeat testing for 90 days after a previously positive result, unless new COVID-19 symptoms develop. 

Resume regular reporting to LBS, Public Health and DfE so that we can monitor COVID-19 cases and absences and manage outbreaks in a timely manner:

Please seek public health advice if a pupil, student, child, or staff member is admitted to hospital with COVID-19 by contacting by phoning the DfE helpline (0800 046 8687, option 1). Hospitalisation could indicate increased severity of illness or a new variant of concern. Settings may be offered public health support in managing risk assessments and communicating with staff and parents.

Update outbreak management plans andrisk assessments to reflect the new guidance, referencing the updated Contingency Framework which sets out new thresholds and includes extra actions to take in the event of rising case numbers. Please note that the thresholds and associated escalation will only apply after the ‘return to school testing’ has been completed. 

Good ventilation reduces the concentration of virus in the air, which reduces the risk from airborne transmission. Continue to identify any poorly ventilated spaces as part of your risk assessment, and apply both natural and mechanical measures to improve ventilation. C02 monitors will be provided to all state-funded education settings from September so staff can assess where ventilation can be improved.

Expanded Vaccinations: Please encourage anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of a vaccine, and get their all-important second jab. Over the summer, vaccinations have been expanded beyond 18 years and up, to include: 

  • 16 and 17 year olds: they will not be able to book online, but can go along to one of the walk-in clinics available.  
  • 12 to 15 year olds with underlying health conditions or who are household contacts of immunosuppressed patients: pupils have been identified by local health services and offered a vaccination at either St George’s or Croydon University Hospital.

The flu vaccination programme that already includes all children in primary school will be expanded to additional children in secondary school so that those in years 7 to 11 will now be offered flu vaccination. This significant expansion in the programme is part of the government’s wider winter planning to reduce flu levels in the population when we are likely to see both flu and COVID-19 in circulation. Please work closely with Imelda Keane ([email protected]) and her team from Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare Trust so that this ambitious programme runs as smoothly as possible. 

Mental Health and Wellness: I understand that there is a lot of pressure on our school community as the pandemic stretches on, and therefore it is important that we continue to support the mental health and wellness of our pupils and staff. Please share Kooth (an online mental health services resource) and the additional mental health resources listed in the slidedeck referenced below with your school community.

I hope this information is helpful. Please do follow the links and as well as use our ‘Return to Education’ slidedeck which we continue to update with a summary of all the guidance as it changes and evolves (which is quite often!). Our team looks forward to working together with you to support all schools and education settings in the new school term.

Kind regards,

Dr Imran Choudhury 
Director of Public Health
London Borough of Sutton

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