Summary of advice
The sub-group has provided advice on the appropriate mitigations that should be in place to ensure a safe return to school in August . The sub-group strongly advises a precautionary, staged approach to the removal of mitigations in order to monitor the impacts of each phase, and to allow the system the flexibility to respond to data and developments.
It also advises that:
- to balance ongoing COVID-19 mitigations in schools and ELC settings with other harms, for example to children and young people’s education and wellbeing, mitigations should remain in place for no longer than is necessary given the state of the epidemic and evidence about risk. There should be a presumption against placing a greater restriction on children and young people than on the rest of society as the vaccination programme progresses
- the current position on self-isolation for children and young people as contacts of cases is not commensurate with the risk going forward and should be revised to exempt all children and young people from isolation as close contacts unless they are symptomatic or have a positive test
- to allow time for all adults to have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and to monitor the impacts of the updated policy on self-isolation in children and young people, the vast majority of other mitigations that are currently in place in schools and ELC and including school aged childcare should remain in place at the start of term and for a period up to six weeks (subject to review).
- in order to ensure that schools re-open safely, staff in all education and local authority ELC settings, and secondary pupils should be asked to undertake a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) home test no more than two days before they return to school in August. Anyone who tests positive should not return to school, and should seek a confirmatory PCR test
- asymptomatic LFD testing for children and young people in secondary schools and for school and ELC staff should continue for a period after the start of term, but consideration should be given to adjusting the approach thereafter so that tests are only required where indicated by community prevalence and based on the advice of the local Director of Public Health/Incident Management Team
- when a COVID-positive case is identified, school-aged close contacts should be advised to book a PCR test as soon as possible, and only end self-isolation and return to school if/when they receive a negative PCR test result
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