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New COVID safety guidance for educational settings

ersey's Competent Authority Ministers (CAM) have issued new and updated guidance to allow for a safe return to educational settings this September and to limit the transmission of COVID-19.

The updated guidance follows advice from the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) and in consultation with Public Health and Children, Young People, Education and Skills (CYPES).

A precautionary approach will be taken at the start of the new school term due to the unique environment of school, college and nursery settings where large numbers of unvaccinated children and young people can gather.

These measures will be introduced to offer additional protection against the more-transmissible Delta variant to ensure that as many children as possible can stay in face-to-face learning. The measures and all relevant data and evidence will be kept under constant review during September.

All school, nursery, college and after-school staff, and youth workers will be offered a PCR test before term begins and will be invited to take Lateral Flow Tests twice a week throughout term.

Staff are encouraged to book their PCR tests before they return in September by calling the Coronavirus helpline on 0800 735 556.

For the first time, school, college and nursery staff will also be provided with Lateral Flow Tests to use at home. Furthermore, the Lateral Flow Testing programme will be extended to all secondary school students, who will be asked to take a test twice a week, rather than once a week.

Lateral Flow Tests will be made available to all secondary students before the start of term. More details and guidance on the Lateral Flow Testing at home process will be announced next week.

In addition, requirements for class bubbles will be updated. Class bubbles will no longer apply when children are outside the school building, which means that year groups can mix outdoors at break time. In addition, mixed-year assemblies of up to 15 minutes can take place.

Schools will also have the option - as part of their risk assessment plans - to remove staggered drop off and pick up times for students.

Some of the measures, which were in place during the last academic year, will continue. These include:

  • secondary school students (and teaching staff in all settings) are advised to wear masks when moving around communal areas

  • students aged 11 and above will also be required to wear a mouth or nose covering on buses

  • physical distancing guidance will be applied appropriately (physical distancing guidance varies between settings)

  • primary school children will still be required to maintain class 'bubbles'

  • all spaces should be well-ventilated

The guidance for students and staff who are direct contacts of a positive case of COVID-19 will be in line with the guidance for direct contacts. From 6 September, any student or staff member who is a direct contact of a positive case of COVID-19:

  • must not attend nursery, school, college or youth club until they have a negative PCR test

  • should take daily lateral flow tests for 10 days after their negative PCR result

Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, said: "At the end of the summer term, we saw an increase in infection rates in education settings. This was a result of the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, together with the close proximity and prolonged contact in educational settings. "As such, the proposed mitigations for the forthcoming academic year must be suitable and sufficient, and must reflect the transmissibility of the Delta variant amongst school settings.

"Children are at the lowest risk from COVID-19, however concerning signals remain about the pandemic's effects. Being in school is important for children and young people's learning and attainment, and their mental health and well-being. Given this context – and the importance of schooling - it is prudent that we maintain protective measures in schools."

Dr Muscat is also urging 16- and 17-year olds to receive the vaccine before the start of term. He said: "In addition to all 16- and 17-year olds, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have also made the decision that children aged 12-15 who are vulnerable or live with immune-suppressed individuals should receive COVID vaccination.

"All eligible young people should receive their vaccine as soon as possible before school restarts to provide the best protection against COVID-19 to themselves, friends and teachers."

Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said: "Jersey has done extremely well in keeping the majority of children and young people in continuous face-to-face learning since the Stay Home order ended last April.

"There is, however, still a risk of schools having to close or being disrupted through waves of infection if we do not continue mitigations within education settings. These new measures will help protect students and staff and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

"While we will continue to review these measures on a frequent basis as the term progresses, to ensure that they are proportionate to the threat of COVID-19 in the Island, I would encourage all those who are eligible for PCR and LFT testing to take part in the programme."

Minister for Children and Education, Deputy Scott Wickenden, said: "Throughout the pandemic, we have worked hard to minimise any disruption to students' schooling. When children and young people miss out on school it isn't just their learning that suffers. It's also their social skills, and their overall mental health and well-being.

"The measures are intended to create a proportionate response for education settings: it's much better for children's education and well-being to have continued mitigations and to remain in school than to be significantly restricted and not in school.

"Updating and extending the measures we have in place will provide additional protection to our children and young people. But it will also offer additional protection for all the school, college and nursery staff who have worked so hard to give children the best experience possible throughout this pandemic."

More guidance is available on the Government of Jersey website.


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