Returning to school - Autumn term letter
We hope you and your family enjoyed your summer holidays. We are delighted to welcome back our schools and educational settings this term after a challenging year. With plans to start the autumn term underway we thought it would be beneficial to update you on what to expect when your child/children return to school.
At Public Health Dorset, we are working with schools in the Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council areas, to ensure children and staff stay healthy and safe while keeping schools open.
The latest government announcement has meant that we are changing the way we work with schools, but important infection control measures are in place.
Here are the changes:
Though the government is removing the requirement to wear face coverings by law, in Dorset we are strongly encouraging secondary school children to wear them in enclosed and crowded spaces including on school transport.
Since 19 July there is no longer a need for class bubbles.
Since Monday 19 July, schools no longer have a responsibility for contact tracing. NHS Test and Trace will take on this responsibility and work with parents and carers to identify close contacts of a positive case. Close contacts will continue to be asked to self-isolate for 10 days if they are not fully vaccinated. School staff who are fully vaccinated and children under 18 will no longer have to self-isolate but are advised to take a PCR test.
NHS Test and Trace use the same criteria as schools have previously to identify close contacts and determine any self-isolation periods for adults and children.
It remains important to report any positive test results to schools to record absence accordingly.
It’s really important that self-isolation rules are followed to help break the chain of transmission of COVID-19 though we realise this can cause disruption to family life.
From Monday 16 August, children under the age of 18 years old and fully vaccinated adults will no longer need to self-isolate as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case. 18-year-olds will be treated in the same way as children until 4 months after their 18th birthday, to allow time for them to get fully vaccinated.
Instead of self-isolating, these close contacts will be identified using the same criteria as schools have used previously and will be advised to take a PCR test.
Adults who are not fully vaccinated and are close contacts of a positive case must self-isolate.
We hope that families have carried on doing lateral flow device (LFD) tests during the summer holidays.
Regular asymptomatic (no symptoms) rapid testing using LFD tests for staff and secondary aged children remains in place.
We ask families to continue to do regular LFD tests at home during September. It is important to remember not to use LFD tests if anyone in the household is symptomatic. If anyone develops symptoms, they must book a PCR test and self-isolate until a result is received.
Secondary school testing
All secondary school pupils should receive two on-site lateral flow device tests, 3 to 5 days apart, on their return in the autumn term.
Secondary schools and colleges may commence testing from three working days before the start of term and can stagger return of pupils across the first week to manage this. Schools will update parents and carers on how they will be doing this.
Pupils should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when national guidance will be reviewed.
Your school will advise you when your child will be tested on their return, and where consent has previously been provided, this will not be requested again from parents. New students will require parental consent for assisted testing at school.
What to do if your child develops symptoms of COVID 19
If your child develops symptoms of COVID-19, you should organise for your child to be tested via the NHS online portal or by calling 119. Your household should isolate until you receive the test results giving the all clear.
Symptoms of COVID 19
The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:
- new continuous cough and/or
- high temperature and/or
- a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness.
The national COVID-19 vaccination programme has now been extended to offering COVID-19 vaccinations to 16 and 17 year olds.
Your child will be invited to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by their GP. You do not have to book.
Good ventilation can help stop the spread of COVID-19. CO2 monitors will be provided to all state-funded education settings from September, so staff can quickly identify where ventilation needs to be improved. We will keep in touch with you once arrangements for delivery have been made.
How to stop COVID-19 spreading
Whilst legal restrictions have eased, we would like to take this opportunity to remind you that cases rates in Dorset remain high and it is importance to keep following the key public health measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in schools and the wider community.
Further information is available at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Attendance during autumn term
Though we are still living with COVID and there may be parents and careers worried about their children’s health, it is a legal duty to send children to school.
School attendance will be monitored from the start of the new academic year and actions will be taken if there are unauthorised absences. This may include issuing of warning letters, and if there is still no improvement, could culminate with the issuing of a fixed penalty fine for the parents in line with our duties.