Protecting schools

Evidence suggests children are at less risk from COVID-19 than the general population. Research also suggests children are less likely to spread the virus than adults. This evidence is not conclusive, however.

As schools and nurseries welcome back more children it is essential the right control measures are in place.

It is also important that risks to individual members of staff are considered.

Measures taken by schools

The measures put in place include:

  • hand sanitiser and frequent hand washing throughout the day
  • consistent social distancing
  • teaching in ‘bubbles’ of staff and pupils, and ensuring that staff and pupils do not leave those bubbles
  • removal of materials that cannot easily be sanitised
  • rotas for use of shared spaces and large equipment with deep cleaning in between uses
  • increased ventilation (weather permitting)
  • wash stations for pupils to place equipment (use once, drop in the station for cleaning)
  • phased drop-off and pick-ups including limiting site access to one per family
  • phased lunch times, and lunches served in classrooms where appropriate
  • arrangements for pupils showing symptoms: isolate, send home, test, and appropriate arrangements for other pupils and staff in the bubble
  • PPE for intimate care and staff waiting with pupils showing symptoms

You can see an example of how schools are responding from Caldicotes Primary Academy below.

The Council’s work with schools

School governing bodies decide when and how to re-open, but the Council has offered support.

We have worked with schools and trade unions to provide data and guidance and template risk assessments.

Our Health and Safety team has supported some schools to carry out their risk assessments.

Our Education team has helped schools to understand government advice on COVID-19.

The North East Association of Directors of Public Health has developed a frequently asked questions document to assist schools.

Dealing with outbreaks in schools

Public Health England’s North East Health Protection team will involve a Council team when:

  • a whole or partial school closure is required
  • linked cases are identified in other schools
  • there is an increase in cases across several schools

If an outbreak is declared, a team will be set up to support the school, its staff, pupils, and parents. The team will include representatives from the school and the Council’s Education, Health and Safety, Public Health and Public Protection, and Communications teams.

This team will provide any support and action required. Technical advice will be provided by Public Health England’s Health Protection Team and the Health Protection Board.

How cases will be identified in schools

COVID-19 cases with links to schools will be identified in two ways:

  • NHS Test and Trace will notify Public Health England’s North East Health Protection Team when a case has links to a school
  • cases may also be reported directly by schools to the Health Protection Team

Schools would report two or more suspected or confirmed cases within a bubble. Schools would also report any concern around unusually high levels of absence.

The Health Protection Team will contact the parent or guardian of confirmed cases. The date of illness, date of test, and when they have attended school would be established.

The team will also contact head teachers and advise if any pupils or staff need to isolate for 14 days.

The school will send a standard letter to the parents of children who have had close contact with a confirmed case. This would include, for example, those within a bubble. The letter would include information about isolation and testing.

The wider school community would be provided with information to provide reassurance.

Testing following an outbreak in a school

Close contacts of confirmed cases will be advised to get tested.

The School Nursing Service will provide advice on the importance of testing and how to arrange it.

The Council will consider the option of bringing in a Mobile Testing Unit.