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Back to school safely this September

School classroom

Ahead of the new autumn term starting, we have been supporting schools to get ready to welcome pupils, students, and staff back into the classroom safely.

The Government has announced that there will be a return to face-to-face learning in schools and education settings from September. School attendance is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age and it is a priority to ensure that as many children as possible regularly attend school. This is especially important as many pupils have lost valuable learning over the last 18 months. Government guidance also states that ‘bubbles’ and social distancing for all children under 18 will no longer be required.

Testing remains hugely important in helping to reduce transmission of the virus and keeping other children in face-to-face education. All secondary school students should receive two on-site lateral flow device tests, three to five days apart at their school or college. Due to testing pupils on return, schools may implement staggered start dates for the new term. Please contact your child’s school directly to find out their return date. It is important that secondary school age children then continue to test twice a week at home, at least until the end of September when this will be reviewed. Pupils with a positive LFD test result should self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test.

If your child is identified as a contact by NHS Test & Trace or their school, they will no longer need to isolate but will need to have a PCR test. They will be able to continue going to school if they have no symptoms and are well. If the test is positive or they have symptoms they must then isolate. Others in the household will not be required to isolate if they are fully vaccinated or are below the age of 18 years and 6 months. If others in the household are over 18 years and 6 months but not fully vaccinated, they must isolate as a contact.

Children must not attend their nursery, childminder, school or college if:

  • they are showing one or more symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • they have tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • they are required to quarantine having recently visited a red list travel ban country

If you or your child develop symptoms, self-isolate immediately and book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

Getting children back to school with fewer restrictions is largely down to the success of the NHS vaccination programme and those who have had their vaccines. Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you and your family can do to help us stop the virus. As well as all those over 18 years, vaccination is now being offered to those aged 16 and 17 years. They can get their vaccine at several places across the city with or without an appointment. You can find further details on vaccination sites here: www.bit.ly/sheffvaccination

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health in Sheffield said “From September, education and childcare settings will all largely be back to normal, and I know many children will be looking forward to returning to the classroom.  I would encourage all children and young people to take every opportunity to attend their school, college or nursery this year. It’s especially important now, given the interruption and lost learning pupils have faced during the pandemic.

“However, Covid-19 has not gone away, and we will continue to see cases. We know that coronavirus transmission rates in schools are roughly equal to or less than those of the surrounding community. There remains risk everywhere, every day in all that we do, but lost education causes a significant impact on pupils’ health and wellbeing and their life chances, so we must balance this.

“I have worked with schools, childcare and further education settings during the pandemic and know how hard they have been working to reduce transmission whilst continuing to deliver education and childcare of a high standard. I know they’ll continue to do all they can to provide a safe environment for your child.

“A huge part of reducing the risk in education settings is testing and continuing to follow the rules. Upon returning, please ensure that secondary age children take two lateral flow device (LFD) tests at school or college three to five days apart and continue to test twice a week at home. If your child has Covid-19 symptoms, they must stay at home. They must not go to school, and they should go for a PCR test and isolate. Good hand washing also remains important to stop the spread of transmission, so ensure your child regularly washes their hands.

“I know the last year has been difficult for everyone, and it’s a massive thank you from me for playing your part, but with a return to face to face learning we can hopefully look forward to a less disruptive year ahead.”

Councillor Jayne Dunn, Executive Member for Education, Children and Families added “It's great news that our children and young people can return to face to face learning this September. After 18 months of uncertainty and disruption I hope this coming term marks the start of a more stable academic year.

Being in school is the best place for our children, for their education but also for their health and wellbeing too. I’m sure everyone is looking forward to getting back to more ‘normal’ routine and being in the classroom with friends again.

Schools have been working extremely hard getting ready to return in the safest way possible, and I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved. I also understand that those who have been out of school for a long time may feel nervous about returning. If you have any concerns at all, please contact your school who will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.”

Our Local Authority Public Health Team and Public Health England will be prioritising working closely with all education settings to help manage any outbreaks. We will do everything we can to keep our children and communities safe whilst maintaining their education and face to face learning.

You can access the full government guidance in place for schools and education settings here.