COVID Workforce Issues Update – Schools New
Schools Reopening Guidance
The Scottish Government guidance for the phased re-opening of schools, as announced by the First Minister on Tuesday 16 Feb, has now been published and can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-schools-reopening
1. The supplementary guidance on the phased reopening of schools has been delayed and we now anticipate that being published on Today morning.
2. The technical guidance for schools was published on Friday afternoon and can be found here:
3. Coronavirus (COVID19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues – advice on mitigations to minimise transmission during phased return to in-person learning.
In support of the advice which was published on 3 February, the advisory sub-group has considered its existing advice on the mitigations required to ensure a safe return to in-person learning for staff and pupils, and has identified some key areas where the advice should be strengthened. Where no amendment has been made, the existing advice still stands.
This advice is subject to continued reductions in prevalence and community transmission of the virus, no significant changes in the evidence, and reassurance that appropriate infection prevention and control mitigations are in place both within schools and ELC settings, and in the wider community.
Link to the full guidance is below but the key messages are:
- while vaccination is being rolled out, non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, face coverings and zero-tolerance to symptoms are the main public health tool against COVID-19. It is important, therefore, to focus on how to encourage and support widespread compliance with these interventions, including clear, unambiguous guidance on the required behaviour.
- a combination of physical distancing approaches that prevent crowding (e.g. classroom distancing, staggered start times), especially in older age groups, along with hygiene and safety measures (e.g. handwashing, cleaning, ventilation) have a role in limiting the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in educational settings. Measures should be adapted to the age group and the setting. It has not been possible, thus far, to assess the effectiveness of individual measures.
- there are already a number of mitigations in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools and ELC settings in Scotland, and these all continue to apply to the new variant (B.1.1.7). Advice from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), published in January 2021, on Mitigations to Reduce Transmission of the New Variant SARS-CoV-2 Virus, concluded that a step change in the rigour of application of mitigations is required, given the increased transmission risk associated with the new variant.
- schools and ELC settings should therefore place very high priority on reinforcing the mitigations designed to reduce the risk for staff and pupils as set out in the existing guidance on reducing the risks from COVID-19 in schools and any supplementary guidance associated with the phased reopening of schools; and the equivalent guidance on ELC settings, Childminding settings and School-Aged Childcare. Risk communication, community engagement and ongoing learning about implementation good practice, are crucial components of an effective response.
- Scottish Government, Education Scotland and local authorities should provide appropriate support to schools and ELC settings to enable them to implement the mitigations fully, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, children and young people, taking into account local circumstances and the practical constraints faced by different schools in terms of issues such as building design.
- as an additional protective measure, 2 metre distancing should be put in place at the current time for secondary-aged pupils, in addition to continuing to be in place for staff in secondary schools
- physical distancing requirements in primary schools remain unchanged: 2 metre distancing between adults not from the same household should be maintained. There should also be 2 metre distancing between adults and primary aged children whenever possible.
- in line with the strengthened advice on 2 metre physical distancing in secondary schools, it will be also be necessary to ensure 2 metre distancing on school transport for secondary schools, recognising that this may not be possible in the case of school taxis or planes.
- it was noted that local authorities and schools, as they begin to return on a phased basis, will start routinely to offer at-home testing using lateral flow devices to: all primary, secondary and special school staff in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools; all ELC and childcare staff based in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools; all senior phase pupils in local authority, independent and grant-aided secondary and special schools. This offer will be extended to regulated day care of children services which are non-school based, in the weeks following the start of the programme.
1. We received a presentation from Public Health Scotland on the data around transmission amongst young people and between young people and adults in the context of schools re-opening. You can read more on this here: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/children-and-school-settings-covid-19-transmission
2. There is more info on the risks related to the spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the EU/EEA here (with specific ref to school settings on p14): https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/COVID-19-risk-related-to-spread-of-new-SARS-CoV-2-variants-EU-EEA-first-update.pdf
A few articles on this: