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COVID-19 continues to affect schools and education settings as council reaffirms its support

Wiltshire Council continues to support education settings in their response to the ongoing pandemic

Published 2 February 2022

Wiltshire Council is continuing to work side-by-side with schools and education settings as they manage COVID-19 on a daily basis, with the pandemic still posing challenges.

Cases of COVID-19 among pupils and staff continue to be high within education settings, particularly primary schools, but, alongside its partners, the council provides guidance and support to help minimise disruption as much as possible.

So far this week educational settings have reported to the council a total of 439 staff cases of COVID-19 and 2,899 pupil cases across 128 settings, many of which were primary schools.

As part of a regional approach, Wiltshire Council has sent an updated South West Directors of Public Health consensus statement, to all settings to reaffirm the guidance in place, particularly if there is an outbreak.

If there is a potential outbreak in an education setting, the consensus statement asks that they continue to apply the Department for Education (DfE) thresholds for accessing support where they feel this is needed. It is recommended  that settings meeting the DfE threshold should:

  • Communicate awareness and advice on symptoms, testing, isolation, and close contacts. We can provide the tools to do this.
  • Ensure robust infection prevention and control, focussing on touch points and shared equipment.
  • Consider activities that can move outside, particularly those with students and staff together.
  • Continue all efforts on testing. Examples are included in the DfE participation toolkit.
  • Ensure good ventilation

Schools are risk assessed on an individual basis. For instance, if a secondary school reaches the DfE threshold then one measure they may be asked to consider, if appropriate, is the wearing of masks in communal areas and/or in classrooms for a limited period. Settings are also encouraged to regularly review their outbreak management/contingency plans.

Rachel Kent, Wiltshire Council Consultant in Public Health, said:

"At this stage of the pandemic, nearly two years in, schools and education settings are very experienced in dealing with COVID-19 as they continue to respond effectively to the daily logistical challenges the virus brings. They have adapted so well to the continuity pressures that occur when pupils and staff get COVID-19 and we thank them once again for everything they're doing.

"Cases are particularly high in primary school aged children at the moment and we expect the challenges to continue this term.

"We know it can be a frustrating and worrying time for families when their children have to self-isolate or additional measures are introduced that impacts school life and their education. But now more than ever, those who work at these settings, and the public health professionals working with them, need the support of the entire school community as it can't be over-emphasised how challenging it is to manage a nursery, school or college amid an ongoing pandemic.

"We hope our South West consensus statement reaffirms to schools and education settings that, just as we have done throughout the pandemic, we'll continue to work with them side-by-side and navigate our way through this together."

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