As students are welcomed in the new academic year, we know how important schools and colleges are to their health and wellbeing.
A lack of education is associated with considerable risks for the health, well-being, performance and life chances of children and adolescents. While the risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19 infection in children and adolescents has remained low throughout the pandemic, the vast majority of children and adolescents who contract COVID-19 will have very mild symptoms and some will experience no symptoms at all to have.
Since staff, secondary and college students will be taking lateral flow device tests (LFD) on their return this fall, it is likely that there will be an initial increase in cases. This shouldn’t raise concerns about the risk of COVID-19 in schools, as these infections were most likely acquired outside of the school environment.
We will continue to closely monitor the schools’ surveillance data. Keeping community infection rates low will continue to be critical to keeping children safe and schools running safely. We urge people to remain cautious to ensure we can protect the education, health and wellbeing of children and young people in the year ahead.
Orientation aid for schools for the fall semester
PHE has worked closely with the Department of Education (DfE) to advise on measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools, and schools and health and social services have done a lot of work to implement them.
The principles of COVID-19 measures in schools and colleges are to protect in-person tuition, minimize disruptions to the educational experience, and ensure that the response to COVID-19 is appropriate to the risk. From the autumn semester, the control measures include:
- good hand and respiratory hygiene and cleaning programs
- Keep buildings well ventilated
- asymptomatic test:
- All secondary school students should take 2 Lateral Flow Tests (LFDs) on site upon their return
- Students and employees should then continue to test at home twice a week.
- Vaccination for beneficiaries
- immediate testing and isolation of confirmed positive cases
Additionally, students should remember the following important pieces of advice:
- not to go to school or college if they have coronavirus symptoms – they should get a PCR test
- on foot or by bike to and from school or college, if possible
- Wear face-covering if you are 11 years of age or older when using public or special school transport
- Wash your hands upon arrival at school or college to reduce the risk of infection
- Maintain good personal hygiene habits, including regular hand washing and sneezing and coughing into a tissue or elbow
- Contact your school nurse if they need additional information or have any concerns
What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?
In the fall semester, a positive case of COVID-19 and its contacts will be followed up by NHS Test and Trace.
Contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case in England under the age of 18 years and 6 months and / or those who are fully vaccinated do not need to self-isolate, as in the Stay at home guidance for households with possible COVID-19 infection.
All contacts should do a PCR test while attending school or college as usual.
Manage positive cases
There are plans in place to deal with suspected, confirmed, or ongoing transmission of COVID-19 in schools. Local support networks – made up of local authorities, public health directors, health protection teams, and regional partnership teams – will support the schools when needed. Schools can continue to subscribe to the The DfE school helpline on 0800 046 8687 for help and advice.
The effects of COVID-19 vaccination
If you are 16 or 17 years old, now is the time to join the millions of people who received their vaccine. If you get vaccinated before the start of the new semester, you will reduce the risk of infection and interruption of your education. You will be contacted by the NHS and invited to a local NHS service such as a local family doctor’s office. Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination centers also offer the COVID-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds. You can find the locations of the walk-in COVID-19 vaccination sites online.
The COVID-19 vaccination is also available to children aged 12 to 15 who are at risk or who live with someone at risk. Further information can be found in the COVID-19 vaccination program.
Reassuringly, the Schools Infection Survey study in late June showed that nearly 93% of employees received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and over 70% received a second dose, which is key in reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools .
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