Public Health guidance for schools

Public Health guidance for schools

BRADFORD COUNCIL PUBLIC HEALTH

 

COVID-19 guidance and resources for schools and colleges  

 

COVID infection prevention and control in schools

 

Testing guidance

 

Out of school, recreational and sports activities, child and parent groups

 

Sample letters for parents

 

Frequently asked questions

 

Wellbeing and economic support 

 

Areas of enhanced testing 

Advice on specific topics related to COVID-19

 

LATEST

 

Contact tracing in school from 19th July

Following confirmation that all COVID restrictions will be lifted from 19th July, we have discussed the changes to national guidance within the Council and with PHE colleagues and have come to a local position that was circulated to schools last week. Since we have still received a few queries, we want to stress that:

  • From Monday 19th July, schools, nurseries and colleges are no longer required to routinely identify and advise contacts. The NHS Test and Trace (T&T) will take responsibility for contact tracing for schools. They may ask for the school’s help in exceptional cases.
  • In Bradford, we advise schools to follow all COVID control systems currently in place until the end of this term; we believe this is the safest approach given the high number of cases in young people within the District. That means we advise you to continue reporting cases to the Council and, wherever there is a high number of cases or a local outbreak, to continue advising close contacts of COVID cases to self-isolate for ten days.

 

RECENT

 
Face coverings in educational settings (updated 09 June 2021)

In line with Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap the DfE has published new guidance on the use of face coverings in schools. This stated that from 17 May face coverings will no longer be recommended for students or staff in classrooms, or for students outside classrooms. Also, that face coverings should still be worn by staff and visitors in corridors and communal areas.

All exemptions still apply, e.g., people who are less able to wear face coverings, who rely on lip reading to communicate, who have a medical reason not to use them, or where this would impact on the ability to take part in exercise (e.g. PE lessons).

Bradford Council’s position

Following discussion of the new DfE guidance within the council and with education officers, school leaders and PHE, Bradford Council's Public Health team has issued the following recommendations:

1. In all schools and FE providers we continue to recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and visitors in situations outside of classrooms where social distancing is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas) – as per Government guidance. 

2. As a precautionary measure we also recommend that pupils in secondary schools, special schools and FE colleges continue to wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas (but not in classrooms). Good classroom ventilation will be particularly important to further reduce COVID risk.

This recommendation is slightly different from national guidance and has the following rationale:

  • The recommendation to use face coverings in classrooms was introduced as a temporary measure, while the use in corridors and communal areas is a longer established part of the schools’ system of controls.
  • Bradford has made enormous progress in vaccination and infection control, but local infection rates (50 per 100,000) are still above the national averages (21 per 100,0000). For secondary age children our rate is higher at 85 per 100,000 (55 per 100,00  in England). Rates are much lower for 0-3yr olds (23 per 100,000) and slightly lower for 4-10yr olds (67 per 100,0000.
  • We still have 30 schools across the District with clusters 2+ cases in the last 14 days (covering 22 of our 30 wards) with evidence of some transmission in some schools. So a district wide preventive approach is still required rather introducing interventions in single areas or schools after the event. 
  • The new DfE guidance says that local Directors of Public Health will advise on the reintroduction of face coverings for pupils, students or staff at an individual setting or cluster of settings. So, we recommend this blanket continuation of the use of face coverings to the end of the 2020/2021 academic year to for public health reasons and to simplify and make sense to parents, staff and students. Some other Local Authorities in Yorkshire with high rates have taken the same position.

Please note that this is advice, not mandatory, and head teachers may choose to decide otherwise. It is also important to maintain other control measures in school including reduced mixing, social distancing, ventilation, hand hygiene, enhanced cleaning regimes and regular testing. Please continue to make sure that anyone with symptoms self-isolates and gets tested, and that their close contacts also self-isolate.

Specific settings

School transport: Please continue to use face coverings in school transport. This advice is based on the regulation for public transport, where children and young people aged 11 and over are required by law to wear a face covering. PHE advises that those aged 11 and over must also wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated school transport.

Further education: FE providers may consider still recommending the use of face coverings in classroom where teaching settings are more reflective of a workplace environment, such as a training kitchen.

Out of school settings: Where out-of-school activities (including offered by private providers) are operating in community settings, they must comply with requirements on the use of face coverings in those premises.

Universities: From 17 May all students will be allowed to return to in-person teaching. Universities should organise this return in a way that minimises risks of viral transmission. Use of face coverings can be still part of a wider set of COVID-secure measures, where social distancing or good ventilation is difficult to maintain. This can include in workshops, laboratories, offices, libraries, teaching rooms and lecture halls, but not outdoors settings. More information on the Higher Education COVID-19 Guidance.

General advice

  • Safe wearing of face coverings requires the cleaning of hands before and after touching (including to remove or put them on) and safe storage of them in individual, sealable plastic bags between use.

  • No pupil or student should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering; schools should have a small contingency supply available for people who are struggling to access a face covering, are unable to use their face covering as it has become damp, soiled or unsafe, or have forgotten their face covering.

A summary of our advice to schools on face coverings has been added to the main Bradford Council website should you need a link to share with parents and carers: https://www.bradford.gov.uk/education-and-skills/school-holidays-and-term-dates/information-for-parents-and-carers-about-schools/  

 

Variants of Concern (VOC) or Under Investigation (VUI)

Variants Under Investigation (VUI) are COVID-19 variants that have concerning characteristics in terms of their infectiousness, their ability to evade protection from COVID vaccines, and the severity of illness they cause. The most worrying are termed Variants of Concern (VOC). In terms of schools, the main actions are to:

  • continue with a robust policy to reduce COVID transmission in school,
  • report any COVID cases through the usual channels to the Council, and
  • provide public health information to pupils, students and parents about PCR testing for COVID symptoms or after positive LFT tests, and self-isolation.

Please be aware that the best way to tackle new variants is to tackle the transmission of COVID-19 as a whole, using the same system of COVID controls.

In this way we minimise the spread of COVID and reduce the chance of mutations, and pick up cases or clusters that may need further attention. We have a very close relationship with Public Health England who inform of us of any residents with VOC/VUI in the District. This triggers enhanced contact tracing via PHE and national/local test and trace systems. Where school children or staff are involved we liaise with the school and keep these situations under enhanced surveillance (particularly looking for more serious cases of infection).

There are currently 11 different VUI/VOC detected by UK labs. If you are interested in this sort of thing see the last updates about variants here.

 

Test-to-release schemes and abbreviation of self-isolation

We have received queries about the use of COVID tests as part of Test to Release schemes. We are also aware that some private companies have advertised COVID-19 tests for test to release schemes, without making it clear in which situations those tests are accepted.
 
The only such scheme that is approved by Government is the Test to Release for International Travel, which allows those who return from a list of selected countries to voluntarily pay for a private COVID-19 test to leave quarantine earlier. This scheme cannot be used if the traveller is returning from a red list travel ban country (which since 9 April includes Pakistan).
 
Under this scheme, a returning traveller will need to pay before or when arriving in England for a private COVID-19 test that should be taken not earlier than the 5th full day after arrival in England. This test is in addition to two other tests that everyone returning from abroad must take - on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of their quarantine period.
 
–       If the result is negative, they can end quarantine, but they still need to take the test on or after day 8.
–       If the result is positive, they need to quarantine for another 10 days, alongside their household contacts.
–       If the result is inconclusive, they can choose to take another privately provided test but must continue to quarantine.
 
Our advice is that schools should allow students or staff who have opted-in for this scheme to return to school before the end of the ten days of quarantine, provided the scheme was correctly followed as above, and the school is able to see evidence of two negative PCR tests taken on or before day 2 and on or after day 5 of arrival in England.
 
Please note that
–       PCR tests provided by NHS Test and Trace cannot be under used this scheme – there is a list of private test providers on the Government website. You can be fined if you use a negative NHS test result to end your self-isolation period early.
–       LFD tests cannot be used under such scheme, even if they are privately paid for, because (i) LFD tests were not designed to exclude COVID-19 infection in asymptomatic contacts and (ii) LFD tests were not approved by the Government’s medicines regulatory agency (MHRA) for test to release purposes.
–       If the individual who returned to school under this scheme tests positive on or after the 8th day, or develops COVID symptoms at any point, they will need to start a new 10-day period of self-isolation.
 

Confirmatory PCR after positive LFD tests

From 1 April 2021, national guidance says that all positive LFD tests (assisted or not) should trigger immediate self-isolation and be confirmed by a PCR, ideally within 2 days of the positive LFD resultWithin two days means the PCR should be taken on the day the LFD test was taken, the next day, or the following day.

We have received queries from schools about how to count the self-isolation period, in particular if the PCR was taken after 2 days from the LFD. In most cases, the self-isolation period does not need to be extended, see below:

1. If the PCR is negative within 2 days of the LFD then self-isolation can stop and the positive LFD is overruled (and T&T will automatically rescind the positive LFD and any advice previously given on self-isolation).

2. If the PCR is negative after 2 days of the LFD then self-isolation needs to continue based on the positive LFD (we cannot assume that the PCR is linked to the LFD anymore).

3. If the PCR is positive within 2 days of the LFD then the self-isolation period does not need to be extended and will count from the positive LFD (the PCR is only confirming the LFD result).

4. If the PCR is positive after 2 days of the LFD, but still within the 10 days of self-isolation and the person did not develop symptoms, then the self-isolation period does not need to be extended and will still end after 10d of the positive LFD.

* In this case (n. 4) we assume that a positive PCR 3-10 days after a positive LFD is part of the same COVID infection. However, as this was not clearly stated in the latest national guidance, it is possible that people will receive distinct advice from NHS Test and Trace. If that is the case, they might need to dispute T&T advice in order to avoid legal issues. The publicly accessible routes for raising issues with T&T (for both individuals and settings) are: https://enquiries.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/s/ or failing that, this email: dhsctesttrace.customerfeedbackteam@nhs.net.

For all situations:

- If someone develops symptoms at any point, or tests positive after the end of the 10 days of self-isolation, then they should follow standard guidance and T&T advice - that can mean extending or restarting self-isolation.

- If uncertainty persists, contact the Council for support.

 

Do COVID tests invalidate Ramadan fasting?

With the start of the Ramadan month, we understand that some may show reluctance to take a COVID test as it requires the swab to occur through the mouth to the throat. Some may consider anything passing the lips as invalidating the fast.

The below link is from the BIMA (British Islamic Medical Assoc) who endorse the view that taking the test does not invalidate the fasting:

https://britishima.org/operation-vaccination/hub/statements/#RAMADANPCR

However, we are aware that individual views may differ on this matter, and we have to respect those different views. You may also have received advice from your local Islamic Scholars.

For those who are not wishing to take a test whilst fasting, we recommend taking the test at home once they have opened their fast in the evening. Rapid lateral flow tests can now be accessed by any adults in England for self-testing at home. You can collect a pack containing 7 tests from your school or workplace, from community testing centres or pharmacies, or order a test kit online or by phone (119, 7am to 11pm, free call). 

 

How to count self-isolation periods - (UPDATED 28/04/2021)

  • For symptomatic confirmed cases: day 0 = day symptoms start, self-isolation starts next day = day 1 to 10, day 11 = can return to school

  • For asymptomatic confirmed cases: day 0 = day the first test was done, self-isolation starts next day = day 1 to 10, day 11 = can return to school (when a confirmatory PCR is taken after a positive LFD, self-isolation should still count from the day after the LFD test)

  • For asymptomatic confirmed cases where symptoms start after the test is done restart your 10 days of selfisolation, day 1 = day symptoms start, self-isolation = day 1 to 10, day 11 = can return to school
  • For identified COVID contacts: day 0 = day the first person in the household/school developed symptoms or, if they do not have symptoms, day their test was taken; self-isolation of the contact starts next day = day 1 to 10, day 11 = close contacts can return to school
  • When identitying contacts of a COVID case, you should include the two full days (rather than exact 48h) prior to the date the test was collected or the date that symptoms started

For more detail refer to the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person.

 
Best time to do your home Lateral Flow (LFD) test (UPDATED 28/04/2021)

When choosing when to do your home test, we recommend that on test is done on the Monday morning to ensure less of a chance of someone becoming infectious while in school.

You will need to identify contacts back to two full days from the test collection date (e.g. if you test positive 7pm on Sunday night you will need to identify contacts back to the start of Friday). So if testing positive on a Monday morning you need to identify contacts back to the start of Saturday, what usually means no school contacts need to self-isolate.

The second weekly test can be taken on Wednesday or Thursday morning.

 
Support for schools testing centres

There are two LFT testing centres in Bradford and Keighley, with experienced staff who have set up and managed these operations. Please email Covidpt2@bradford.gov.uk if you would like to visit a testing centre or enquire about support for your school. These team are currently very busy so please be patient in waiting for a response.


Disposing of LFT kits

We advise that all waste from LFT school testing should be disposed of by schools in the same fashion as PPE (i.e. using double bagging, 72 hour safe storage and domestic waste disposal).

Test kits used at home can be disposed of with normal domestic waste, but we advise to pouring any residual buffer solution away first. As set out in the manufacturer’s safety instructions, the buffer solution is not hazardous; however, if accidentally ingested, a medical practitioner should be informed.

Positive tests can be disposed in the same fashion as above.

 

Reporting COVID cases

Please continue reporting positive cases of COVID-19, whether LFD or PCR, to the Local Authority using the same reporting lines - here is a direct link to the new online form for reporting cases of COVID-19 in schools and colleges. Alternatively, you can still call the Contact Centre on 01274 431000, option 1, Monday to Friday 8am-6pm.

When reporting a COVID case you may request a call back from Council officers – we will do our best to call back in the same day.

If you need advice during weekends you can also use the DfE helpline - 0800 046 8687, Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm. They should be able to support initial decisions on contact tracing and isolation.

 

Updated definition of close contacts

England's Test and Trace scheme has revised its definition of a "close contact". This now reads that a close contact is anyone who has been within two metres of someone for more than 15 minutes, either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day. Please bear this in mind when identifying close contacts of a COVID positive student or staff member and consider for visiting staff and school supervisor roles that may still be moving between different areas of the school. Previously the definition was just a single period of at least 15 minutes.

 

Overlapping and extended isolation periods
  • How long do I have to self-isolate for if I develop COVID-19 symptoms?

If someone develops COVID symptoms they must self-isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms (or test date). Their household and other contacts will also need to self-isolate for 10 days.  After they completed the self-isolation period (10 days) the episode is over and they can go back to their normal routine, provided they have improved symptoms and have not had a fever for 48h.

  • What if while I am isolating after testing positive for COVID other members of my household test positive?

If you are already COVID positive or self-isolating as a contact, you do not need to extend self-isolation if other household members develop symptoms during your isolation. This is because people in the household who remain well after 10 days are unlikely to be infectious. Only new symptomatic or positive cases should start a new 10-day isolation period.

  • What happen if I have just or recently finished a period of self-isolation and a member of my household subsequently tests positive for COVID?

The clocks start from scratch again if your household has stopped isolation. If there is a gap, then someone develops new COVID symptoms (even if previously testing positive) they should get a test. In these circumstances you should start self-isolation again as above. You cannot assume immunity.

Please see this simple illustration about self-isolation periods in a household.

 

Wellbeing support for those isolating or otherwise affected by COVID

The Council has put together a comprehensive Self-help and support booklet which covers everything from mental health, fuel and food poverty to furlough and financial support for families. Please have a few copies handy in school.  

 

Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) individuals (previously advised to “shield”)

Since January 2021, cases of COVID-19 have fallen across the country and in Bradford, reducing the risk of catching the virus for everyone, including the most vulnerable. Shielding has only ever been a temporary measure to protect the most vulnerable during peaks of the pandemic, and current Government advice is that vulnerable people no longer need to shield. From now on, clinically extremely vulnerable people must follow the rules that are in place for everyone, including the gradual easing of restrictions over the next months as outlined in the roadmap out of lockdown.

However, we still advise CEV people to continue to take extra precautions to protect themselves and minimise the risk of exposure to the virus.

 

Responding to media enquiries

Bradford Council communications team has put together some suggested responses for press enquiries. Please refer to these before answering to press inquiries.

If your school's situation, or the enquiry is particularly complex, and you would like communications support with media interest, please contact;

Steve Hemming,  Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager
T: 07582 101 021 - Email: steve.hemming@bradford.gov.uk
Rebecca Smith, Marketing and CommunicationsOfficer
T: 07779 543 921 - Email: rebecca.smith@bradford.gov.uk
Council's Media and Communications Team  - Email: press.communication@bradford.gov.uk 

More general communications advice is available in the communications toolkit page.

 


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