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  • Writer's pictureHayley Jackson

What You Need to Know about Tomorrow's COVID-19 Changes

We have been really disappointed that some of our pupils, parents and staff are currently poorly with COVID, despite the vaccination programme. We hope that they start to feel well really soon and that no one else contracts the new variant.

Schools have been told that we do not need to keep pupils in consistent “bubbles” from step four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, but isolation rules for close contacts will remain in place until the end of term. Last week, we had to close our lower school bubble, which includes Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. The decision was not taken lightly and was made after consultation with the Local Authority, the School Nurse team and our Trust. These classes still need to isolate this week up to and including Thursday 22nd July. Pupils should return for the last day of term on Friday 23rd July. In the meantime, remote learning is being provided. Updated guidance issued by the Department for Education states that at step four, “we will no longer recommend that it is necessary to keep children in consistent groups (‘bubbles’)”. It means bubbles will not be needed for summer provision or in schools from the autumn term. Step four is due to start tomorrow on 19th July, unless anything happens in the meantime. The guidance states that “if your school is still open at Step 4 (which Stepney is), you may wish to continue with these measures until the end of your summer term”. Williamson. We are continuing with our bubbles plan this week. We are trying to limit the possibility of anyone catching this virus.

Also from step four, close contacts will be identified via NHS Test and Trace, and education settings “will no longer be expected undertake contact tracing”, the DfE guidance states. But the education secretary has said that guidance on isolation of contacts in schools “will stay in place until the end of this term in line with isolation rules for the rest of the population as more adults are vaccinated”. These will therefore continue this week. The key date for changes to this is 16th August (during the summer holidays).

Contacts under 18 are not required to isolate from 16th August 2021. From August 16, under-18s who are identified as close contacts of positive Covid cases will no longer be required to self-isolate.

The guidance also states that from step four, face coverings will also no longer be advised for pupils, staff and visitors “either in classrooms or in communal areas”. They will also no longer be recommended on school transport. However, the updated guidance tells schools to be prepared to step measures up and down in response to local issues. Schools “should make sure your outbreak management plans cover the possibility that in some local areas it may become necessary to reintroduce ‘bubbles’ for a temporary period, to reduce mixing between groups”. Any decision to recommend the reintroduction of bubbles “would not be taken lightly and would need to take account of the detrimental impact they can have on the delivery of education”. If schools have outbreaks, directors of public health “might advise you that face coverings should temporarily be worn in communal areas or classrooms (by pupils staff and visitors, unless exempt)”.

As we have had cases last week and for the sake of one more week at school and in order to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus, staff and visitors to Stepney will need to wear masks. In school this means that staff wear masks once they leave their classroom, office or work area. Even for a short step out of the working environment, our staff have worn masks and will continue to do so this week. Staff wear disposable masks which are changed each day. We will continue to ask parents and visitors to school to do likewise. Staff should undertake twice weekly home tests “whenever they are on site until the end of September, when this will also be reviewed”. Our Stepney Staff have been testing twice a week for months now. The results of these tests are reported to the NHS and to the school.

Although there is “no need” for primary age pupils to test over summer, those starting in year 7 will be offered two tests on-site at the beginning of the autumn term. Staff and pupils with positive lateral flow test results should self-isolate in line with stay at home guidance, and “will also need to get a free PCR test to check if they have Covid-19”. “Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the individual should continue to self-isolate. If the PCR test is taken withintwo days of the positive lateral flow test, and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test and the pupil can return to school, as long as the individual doesn’t have Covid-19 symptoms.

Finally, may we remind parents of children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 that their children need to isolate at home until the end of Thursday.

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