Hertfordshire's education officials outline changes in schools in advance of new term

The changes were outlined by education and public health officials from Hertfordshire County Council yesterday (Tuesday)

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 9:52 am

Schools are to move towards ‘business as usual’ when they re-open for the autumn term next week – with county council officials in Hertfordshire stressing schools will be ‘safe’ places.

Previous measures to limit the spread of the Covid-19 in schools have included staggered starts, keeping children in ‘bubbles’ and the wearing of face masks – as well as periods of closure and home-schooling.

But – in line with national changes – when schools re-open next week the measures will no longer be required.

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‘Hand washing protocols’, the opening of windows and some other measures are likely to continue in schools.

But there will be NO requirement for pupils or staff to maintain a ‘social distance’ – or maintain ‘bubbles’.

And changes to self-isolation requirements mean children will be allowed to be in school – even if a member of their family tests positive for Covid-19.

The changes were outlined by education and public health officials from Hertfordshire County Council at a media briefing on Tuesday, August 24.

Tania Rawle, Hertfordshire’s head of school standards and accountability pointed to the removal of the requirement for social distancing and other measures such as face masks.

As part of the changes, she said, schools would no longer be required to do ‘contact tracing’.

And, she said, close contacts of any child testing positive will be allowed in school, without the need to self-isolate.

However if more than five children or staff – who are likely to have mixed closely – test positive for Covid-19 within a 10 day period she says the council will support the school with ‘outbreak management’.

And then it is understood measures – which will be determined on a case by case basis – could include a temporary return to face masks and lateral flow testing in secondary schools or a return to ‘bubbles’ in primary schools.

At the briefing director of public health Jim McManus pointed to the role of the vaccination programme – which now includes those over 16 and vulnerable children over 12 – in providing ‘a good wall of protection around schools’.

And head of health protection Geraldine Bruce stressed that ‘generally transmission is very low within schools and doesn’t generally translate to come out into the community’.

“Schools are safe places to start with,” she said. “They are generally very safe places for our pupils.

“If you think, our children are mixing at the moment in the summer holidays without any oversight or protection, essentially.

“[…]Whereas in school they have excellent measures in place. They are supervised and encouraged with hand hygiene and other measures. So I would consider a school to be a safe place.“

Meanwhile executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Terry Douris highlighted the continued need for hand-washing and sanitising.

And he said that should there be an ‘uptick’ in cases, schools were ready with plans if needed.

But pointing to the move towards ‘business as usual’ in schools, he said: “During the summer we have seen the relaxation of some of the controls.

“We have seen public events opening up again. We have seen restaurants and eateries opening up. We have seen attendance at sporting events and so on.

“I think that’s something that – whilst we are very conscious of the need to be careful and safe – we want to get back to being, as much as possible, business as usual. And I think that that relates to schools as well.

“From the educational aspect, within the school our school professionals will be delivering education – as much as possible – in the same way that they have always done it – but also being mindful of the fact that there is covid around and that they may have to make adjustments as we go forward.”

In advance of the start of the autumn term secondary school children will be tested three times – including two tests that must be supervised.