County schools ready to welcome all pupils back into education safely
As all pupils prepare to return to the classroom from next week (Monday 8 March), the county council is reassuring parents, carers and young people that Gloucestershire schools continue to be committed to ensuring everyone has a safe environment to learn in.
Over the last year, schools in Gloucestershire have worked tirelessly to make sure that all children and young people still get the education they deserve, in the safest way possible. To date, Covid-safe measures introduced in schools include: pupil ‘bubbles’ to reduce contact between children, staggered start and finish times, regular hand washing and enhanced cleaning and ventilation.
From next week, in addition to these well-established safety steps, rapid testing using lateral flow devices (LFDs) will become a crucial part of the day-to-day life of secondary schools. LFDs help to identify people who are infectious but do not have any coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. Those who test positive will self-isolate, helping to reduce transmission of the virus.
Secondary aged pupils will be encouraged to take a rapid test using LFDs at school before they return to face-to-face teaching next week, followed by another two tests at school, before continuing regular testing at home using kits provided to them. They will also be asked to wear face coverings in the classroom, as well as in other school spaces where social distancing is more difficult.
Teachers and support staff in both Gloucestershire primary and secondary schools have been part of the asymptomatic (no symptoms) testing programme since the start of the Spring term to help protect children of keyworkers throughout lockdown.
Households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary-age pupils or staff with no symptoms can also get a Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) test kit to use at home. Test kits can be collected from the testing sites based at Hempsted Meadows in Gloucester and the walk-in testing facility in Cheltenham anytime between 1.30pm and 7pm, Monday - Sunday. You can check online if the location is open or busy before you go. You do not need to make an appointment.
Cllr Patrick Molyneux, cabinet member responsible for education, said: “Naturally, this is an anxious time for parents and carers, and their children, but I want to reassure people that our county’s schools are taking all of the necessary steps to help keep everyone as safe as possible. It’s important to remember that schools can’t do this alone; we all have a part to play in keeping our children safe. I would like to thank everyone for their ongoing efforts to keep each other safe in what have been difficult times for us all.”
Sarah Scott, Executive Director of adult social care and public health, said: “Regular, rapid testing, especially in secondary schools, is a really important part of this effort, and whilst not compulsory, I would encourage everyone to take up this opportunity. Catching Covid early can help prevent unnecessary spread of infection. It is also still just as important as it was at the start of the pandemic to self-isolate and book a PCR test if you have symptoms of COVID-19, as well as continuing to follow rules around hands, face and space.”
Attendance at school will be compulsory but we know that some children and young people are likely to struggle with returning so the county council is working with schools and support services to ensure that they receive the help they need. This will include support to catch up on missed learning, returning to a structured environment, and responding to increased anxiety and mental health issues.
For more information on the Government’s plans for a safe return to school, visit: www.gov.uk/backtoschool.