Health and Wellbeing

Public health experts working closely with schools and colleges to reduce risk of transmission

boy sat with back to camera, facing the front of the class Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Posted on: 9 September 2021

Schools and colleges have reopened for most this week, and with it coronavirus measures – some different, some familiar – to help reduce risk to pupils and staff.

With most of Devon’s schools back, pupils and their families will be familiarising themselves with new routines.

Secondary schools and colleges are asking pupils to take two in-school assisted lateral flow tests, days apart, from the start of term, and students are expected to continue to routinely take the tests at home, twice a week, thereafter.

With the designation that Devon, alongside Plymouth, Torbay, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is now an Enhanced Response Area, there is a requirement for pupils and students to wear face coverings when on school grounds and in communal areas, such as corridors and other shared spaces.

It’s not mandatory to wear face coverings in the class room, but pupils and students are advised that they can still choose to do so if they wish.

Face coverings are recommended, and are expected to be worn on public transport, including dedicated school transport.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon

Steve Brown

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“Most parents, myself included, will be seeing our children off to school and college this week.

“Schools and colleges have worked hard over the holidays to prepare for the safe return to the classroom, with coronavirus still in our communities.

“For those starting new schools, there will be new routines to get used to, and for older year groups, there will be measures in place that they will recognise.

“One-way systems, and routes around school or college to aid social distancing will be in place in many schools. And a requirement for schools and colleges to maintain good ventilation will mean windows and doors should be left ajar to encourage fresh air flow.

“The government no longer requires schools or colleges to adopt ‘bubble groups’, nor are schools responsible now for tracing close contacts of pupils who test positive for coronavirus – that task is now the responsibility of the national Test and Trace teams.

“However, I’ve been asked what additional measures are in place in schools because of the high case rates, and the recent designation as an Enhanced Response Area.

“Public health teams are working closely with schools and colleges and we are monitoring the situation carefully.

“Coronavirus cases have been falling in recent weeks across the county, but because schools and colleges are a good barometer of what’s happening in their local communities, the expectation is that we are likely to see a rise in cases among school and college-aged people, even among those in sixth form or college who may now have had their vaccination.

“Face coverings in communal area are required, albeit it optional for pupils in the classroom. We will review this measure in two weeks, and will make a decision whether to continue that, or whether additional face covering measures are required, depending on the data.

“By monitoring the data closely, we will also be able to advise schools and colleges on any additional measures required to reduce the risk of spread within the classroom.”

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