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Gov unveils plan to avoid 'back to school' covid chaos

Gov unveils plan to avoid 'back to school' covid chaos

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Gov unveils plan to avoid 'back to school' covid chaos


Twice-weekly lateral flow tests are to be introduced for all school staff and secondary school students starting at the beginning of the new term.

Also under the 'back to school' measures, which were announced by Ministers today, any direct contacts of those with covid must not attend school until they have a negative PCR test.

In addition, anyone who has been a direct contact must also take daily lateral flow tests for 10 days following their PCR result.

Class bubbles will no longer apply when children are outside the building, meaning that year groups can mix outdoors at break time.

Additionally, mixed-year assemblies of up to 15 minutes will be allowed to take place.

Ivan Muscat

Pictured: Dr Ivan Muscat MBE said that the updated rules "reflect the transmissibility of the Delta variant amongst school settings."

PCR tests will be offered to all school, nursery, college and after-school staff and youth workers before the beginning of term and can and can be booked by calling the covid helpline.

They will then be invited to take Lateral Flow Tests twice a week throughout term.

School, college and nursery staff will also be provided with Lateral Flow Tests to use at home.

Secondary school students will also be asked to take a Lateral Flow Test twice a week rather than once a week.

Primary school students will not be offered the twice-weekly tests secondary school students are, but will have to stay off school until a negative PCR result, and take ten days of lateral flow tests if they are found to be a direct contact.

The rules will also include the following measures carried over from last term:

  • secondary school students (and teaching staff in all settings) being advised to wear masks when moving around communal areas;
  • students aged 11 and above being required to wear a mouth or nose covering on buses;
  • physical distancing guidance being applied appropriately between settings;
  • primary school children still having to maintain class 'bubbles';
  • and ensuring school spaces are well-ventilated.

Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat MBE, said: "At the end of the summer term, we saw an increase in infection rates in education settings.

"This was a result of the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant together with the close proximity and prolonged contact in educational settings.

"As such, the proposed mitigations for the forthcoming academic year must be suitable and sufficient and must reflect the transmissibility of the Delta variant amongst school settings.

"Children are at the lowest risk from covid-19, however concerning signals remain about the pandemic's effects. Being in school is important for children and young people's learning and attainment, and their mental health and well-being.

"Given this context – and the importance of schooling - it is prudent that we maintain protective measures in schools.

He continued: "In addition to all 16- and 17-year olds, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have also made the decision that children aged 12 to 15 who are vulnerable or live with immune-suppressed individuals should receive covid vaccination.

"All eligible young people should receive their vaccine as soon as possible before school restarts to provide the best protection against covid-19 to themselves, friends and teachers."

Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré said that while Jersey had "done extremely well in keeping the majority of children and young people in continuous face-to-face learning" since lockdown, he said there was still "a risk of schools having to close or being disrupted through waves of infection if we do not continue mitigations within education settings."

"While we will continue to review these measures on a frequent basis, as the term progresses to ensure that they are proportionate to the threat of covid-19 in the island, I would encourage all those who are eligible for PCR and LFT testing to take part in the programme," he said.

Children and Education Minister Deputy Scott Wickenden, added that the measures are "intended to create a proportionate response for education settings; it's much better for children's education and well-being to have continued mitigations and to remain in school than to be significantly restricted and not in school."

scott-wickenden.jpg

Pictured: Minister for Children and Education Deputy Scott Wickenden said that Ministers have "tried to minimise" disruption to learning.

He continued: "Updating and extending the measures we have in place will provide additional protection to our children and young people.

"But it will also offer additional protection for all the school, college and nursery staff who have worked so hard to give children the best experience possible throughout this pandemic."

Dr Muscat has today written to parents and guardians, as well as their children, to update them on the 'back to school' plan.

READ: Dr Muscat's letter...

Dear parents/carers and children/young people,

Ahead of you or your child starting or returning to school, college or nursery, in September, I am writing to you directly to explain the COVID-19 safe arrangements that will be put in place, and what will be changing for children and young people.

Following advice from the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC), the Competent Authority Ministers (CAM) have agreed both the measures that need to be in place and the updates to guidance to allow for a safe return to education this autumn term.

Reasons for these measures

At the end of the summer term, we saw an increase in infection rates in educational settings. This increase was a result of the Delta variant, which spreads more easily, especially with the close and prolonged proximity in educational settings.

Although children are at the lowest risk from COVID-19, concerning signals remain about the effect of the pandemic. For children and young people, being in school is important for their learning as well as their mental health and well-being.

Consequently, it is prudent that we maintain protective measures in schools, colleges and nurseries, which reflect the transmissibility of the Delta variant in these types of settings.

Therefore, the Competent Authority Ministers (CAM) has updated the measures for schools and educational settings, while also maintaining some existing measures. These will apply to schools, colleges, nurseries, after-school clubs and youth clubs.

All the measures will be reviewed during the autumn term and CAM may, as a result, issue updated guidance based on the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 in the Island.

Updates to the Lateral Flow Testing programme

The Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) programme will be extended to all secondary school students who will now take a test twice a week, rather than just once a week.

Lateral Flow Tests will be made available to all secondary students before the start of term. More details and guidance on the Lateral Flow Testing at home process will be announced next week.

All school, college, nursery, after-school staff and youth workers will be offered a PCR test before term begins and will be invited to take Lateral Flow Tests twice a week throughout term. As usual children and young people will be offered the 'flu vaccination when this becomes available. School staff will also be encouraged to have the 'flu vaccine.

Updated guidance for direct contacts of a positive COVID-19 case

The guidance for students and staff who are direct contacts of a positive case of COVID-19 is consistent with the guidance for direct contacts.

From 6 September, any student or staff member who is a direct contact of a positive case of COVID-19:
must not attend nursery, school, college, after-school or youth club until they have a negative PCR test; and
should take daily Lateral Flow Tests for 10 days after their negative PCR result.

Updated guidance on class bubbles

Class bubbles will no longer apply when children are outside the school building. This means that all year groups can mix outdoors at break time. Playgrounds and other open-air spaces provide good ventilation, which reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

In addition, mixed-year assemblies, of up to 15 minutes, can take place.

Measures that will remain in place

Some of the measures that were in place last academic year will continue.

Secondary school students (and teaching staff in all settings) are still advised to wear masks when moving around communal areas.

Students, who are aged 11 and over, will still need to wear a mouth or nose covering on school buses.

All adults in school are still required to observe two (2) metre physical distancing wherever possible and maintain at least one (1) metre physical distancing. (Physical distancing guidance varies between settings, which is outlined in full HERE.

All spaces in these settings will continue to be well-ventilated.

Primary school students will still be required to maintain class 'bubbles' when inside the school building. The only exception is during assemblies, which should last no longer than 15 minutes.

I'd also like to take this chance to remind you that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has made the decision that all 16- and 17-year-olds as well children aged 12-15 who are vulnerable or live with an immunosuppressed individual , should be offered the COVID vaccine.

If your child is eligible and yet to have their vaccine, they should have it as soon as possible before they return to school. Vaccination provides the best protection there is against COVID-19.

Thank you and I wish you a safe and happy return in a couple of weeks

Yours sincerely,

Dr Ivan Muscat MBE
Deputy Medical Officer of Health  

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