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Covid advice re-instated after cases rise in city schools

Peterborough parents have been reminded about the importance of cleanliness for young people as the number of COVID-19 cases in schools continues to rise. 

In Peterborough, 24.9% of recorded COVID cases for the week ending September 22 were in the 10 to 14 age group. A further 9.6% were among those aged 15 to 19, while there have also been rises in case number in staff. 

The latest government figures show that more than 122,000 children in England were out of school for Covid-19 related reasons on September 16.

More than one in four say they have already exceeded Covid-19 case thresholds set by the government, and on average respondents say they have had three members of staff absent due to Covid-19 this term. 

A poll by school leaders’ union NAHT of more than 1,100 school leaders in September suggests 78% lack confidence in the government’s Covid-19 guidance for schools. 

As a result, schools are working hard to balance safety with the need to ensure that children receive the education they deserve. 

All schools continue to ensure buildings are well ventilated and have enhanced cleaning regimes in place and children are encouraged to wash their hands well and regularly. 

School leaders in England are experiencing “a high level of disruption” with nearly half reporting that pupil attendance this term is lower than expected in a usual year, a survey suggests. 

Heads are concerned that self-isolation rules are “actively contributing” to the spread of Covid-19 in schools, and risk more children missing out on school in the long run, according to NAHT. 

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary said: “School leaders want the government to revisit its guidance, particularly when it comes to contact tracing and self-isolation. 

“No one wants to see a child miss any time off school, but there is a real risk that the current policy is inadvertently leading to more children missing school in the long run. 

“The results of this survey, coupled with the latest data on case numbers among school-aged children, should be ringing alarm bells for Government. 

“Put simply, we cannot allow Covid-19 to rage unchecked in schools as it will only lead to more disruption to children’s education.” 

A joint letter from Director of Education Jonathan Lewis and Director of Public Health Jyoti Atri reminds parents of the role they have to play in helping to reduce the spread of the virus and ensuring classes and schools can remain open. 

The rules around self-isolation changed last month and it is no longer a requirement for anyone who is under 18, or has had both doses of the vaccine, to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a positive case. Those who have not had both doses of the vaccine still need to self-isolate. It is therefore important that everyone who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, takes up the offer. 

Advice on controlling the spread of COVID-19 remains: 

  • Washing your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds at a time, with children encouraged to do the same when they are at school 
  • Meeting those you don’t live with in well ventilated places as this makes it harder for the virus to spread 
  • Wearing a face covering in shops, supermarkets, public transport and anywhere else where you may encounter lots of people in an enclosed space. 
  • If your child is over 12 years old, complete lateral flow tests and encourage them to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered in their school. 

Pupils with symptoms should not attend school, given the potential risk to others, and should get a PCR test as soon as possible. Headteachers can take the decision to refuse access to school to protect other pupils and staff from possible infection with COVID-19 if they consider the pupil has symptoms. 

All education establishments will have contingency arrangements in place to deal with a significant increase in cases and they will work closely with the Local Authority to step up measures where they are needed. This may include reintroducing temporary measures, including the wearing of face coverings and individual classes being ringfenced from other groups within the school in shared spaces. 

Where there are insufficient staff to safely operate the school, children may be temporarily moved to remote learning, but only as a last resort. 

Support is available for people who need it whilst self-isolating, including payments for those who will lose income and struggle financially. Parents are also able to claim financial support if they need to self-isolate as a result of a child having symptoms or testing positive. 

For more information about this support, see the council’s website here.

Cllr Lynne Ayres, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for children’s services said: “It is not surprising that COVID cases in schools have increased, but it is a situation we are prepared for.  

“Schools in Peterborough have been working tirelessly to keep premises clean and encourage children to wash their hands regularly. But parents also have a vital role to play in ensuring our children’s education can continue without disruption and we are enormously grateful for their help.”