Parent and Carer Update 19th July 2021
Dear Parents and Carers
As we approach Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown I wanted to contact you about some changes to the guidance which will come into effect on Monday 19th July. I am sorry for the late notice, however, we only received guidance on this from the Department for Education (DfE), Public Health England (PHE) and the Local Authority on Friday afternoon.
You will no doubt be aware that nationally the country experienced almost 52 000 new infections last Friday and, whilst the link to hospitalisations and serious illness is weakened, it certainly isn’t broken as these numbers also continue to rise.
In our own local area, Devon saw a 61% increase in positive Covid cases up to the 11th July according to the Government’s interactive map and so I fully expect this to be much higher based on the increased number of cases ourselves and other schools are experiencing.
Given this I would continue to urge caution and even though, according to the new Government guidance, Schools do not have to continue with bubbles and some other measures, we will continue to operate our Covid protocols such as staggered starts, collection points and separate entrances through to the end of term. We would also urge you to continue regular testing next week and continue to encourage your child to keep their distance from others and sanitise their hands on a regular basis.
As announced by the Prime Minister on 12th July he intends that Step 4 of the roadmap will go ahead as planned on Monday 19th July. This means that the following changes will come into effect:
Mixing and bubbles
- At Step 4 the DfE no longer recommend that it is necessary to keep children in ‘consistent groups’ (bubbles). The guidance now states that ‘if your school is still open in Step 4 you may wish to continue with these measures until the end of the summer term’. However, given the circumstances in our area and our desire to limit the number of students potentially exposed to the virus we will continue to operate our year group bubbles until the end of term.
Track and Trace and Isolation
- From 11.59 on Sunday 18th July schools no longer have a role in track and trace and their legal powers to ask people to isolate will end.
- Contacts identified within settings prior to 19th July will still be required to complete their ten day isolation period.
- From Monday 19th NHS Track and Trace will contact parents to ask questions about contacts at home and in the community. They will not ask them about contacts at school, but they will ask parents to inform the school.
- Parents and students are still required to report all LFD and PCR positive tests to schools. We will continue to ask you to contact us through PositiveCovidCase @exmouthcollege.devon.sch.uk until Thursday 22nd July and to start again on 3rd September (unless guidance changes in the new academic year).
- Schools will not be routinely contacted by track and trace to ask for information, but they may be contacted if they are in an ‘outbreak area’ where there are high levels of community transmission or outbreaks in other settings, as currently happens in managing other infectious diseases.
- The legal requirement to self-isolate does not change on 19th July for individuals:
- If they have been notified by NHS Test and Trace that they are a close contact
- If they or someone in their household has tested positive with a PCR
- If they or someone in their household is symptomatic
The requirements for self-isolation may change on the 16th August when the Government has suggested that double vaccinated adults and young people under the age of 18 will no longer have to self-isolate.
- From the 19th July students who test positive with a LFD are still required to
- Self-isolate with their household members
- Notify school of a positive LFD result
- Seek a confirmatory PCR test within 2 days of the positive LFD
- Notify school of their confirmatory PCR test result
- If PCR test is negative and taken within 2 days, the isolation period will end for the individual and their household
- If the PCR test is positive a full 10 days isolation must be completed by student and the household.
When the school are informed of a positive case
- Schools must continue to inform the local authority of positive cases.
- Whilst no longer required to contact track and trace, under the health and safety duty of care regulations schools are required to take appropriate action to protect students and staff; This includes those in relation to communicable diseases such as COVID. Under this guidance schools can require students who are close contacts of the positive case not to come into school. This however does not mean that the person needs to self-isolate but it is recommended that they limit their contact with others during the identified period.
- Devon County Council will support schools who take action to carry out their duty of care in this way and to continue with the contact tracing arrangements they have in place until the end of term.
- The Devon Public Health and Education Teams will continue to support schools, as they have done previously, through the last week of term.
Testing over the Summer holidays
- We have been advised that LFD Testing can be paused over the summer holiday, unless your child is attending our Summer School. You can, of course, continue testing should you wish to. Test kits can be ordered online, or collected from most pharmacies. We will be asking students to take a test at home before their return to school in September, so as to reduce the risk of positive students coming into school. Please ensure you have test kits at home in order to conduct these tests. We will also ask Year 11 and 13 students to test before they come onto site to collect their examination results.
Return in September
- The DfE are asking all secondary schools to carry out testing on site before students return in September.
- Testing remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of infection within schools.
- As it is likely that students will be mixing with lots of other people over the summer break, it is recommended that all secondary school students should receive two on-site lateral flow (LFD) tests 3-5 days apart on their return in the autumn term.
- We plan to start this mass testing for students, whose parents have consented, on Wednesday 8th September. Further details will follow in a separate letter. As you are aware this is a huge undertaking for any school and we are sorry for the disruption this will cause to the start of term, particularly for our new Year 7 students. We are about to start searching for volunteers and so if you are available around this time we would love to hear from you!!
- Once the two LFD tests have taken place in school, students will be asked to resume testing twice weekly at home until the end of September when it will be reviewed.
- From 19th July face coverings will no longer be advised for students, staff and visitors either in classrooms or in communal areas. However, as a school we have decided that staff and visitors will continue to wear face coverings in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained for the last week of term.
- Students on DCC operated school transport routes will be requested to continue to wear face coverings (unless in possession of an exemption card), and to remain seated in year groups/according to seating plans if in place. This includes the transport being used during Celebration Week. This has been checked with PHE and it is important that students wear face masks on coaches and ensure they have done their LFD tests twice this week.
- We will continue to do our best to provide remote education for those students who need to self-isolate and for those who have been asked to remain away from school as they have been identified as a ‘close contact’ within the school setting.
We all recognise it has been a very challenging 18 months for everyone.
We are also so sad that this hasn’t been the end of the academic year any of us hoped for. From having to cancel the Year 11 Prom through to lots of students and staff having to self-isolate over the last few days it has been a very stressful time for everyone.
In due course we will obviously provide refunds to all those students who have missed out on trips that they were due to take part in during Celebration Week.
We hope that when we return to school in September we will be able to live with the virus as best we can, whilst keeping everyone safe.
Thank you once again to all the students, families and staff for all your wonderful support over the year.
We wish you a very safe and restful Summer period and look forward to seeing everyone in September.