Back to school

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Young people all over Cornwall will be returning to schools and colleges after their summer breaks.

For many pupils they will be returning with far fewer restrictions than when they left for the summer holidays!

It means pupils will be able to experience a fuller education experience, including, access to more group activities, team sports, playing with friends, plays, and taking part in musical groups.

Enhanced Response Area

You would have also seen in the press that due to the high rates of COVID infection being seen across the South West at the moment; Cornwall and Devon have been moved to an Enhanced Response Area (ERA) by central government.

This will be in place for 5 weeks initially but will be reviewed after 4 weeks.

This move enables the area to put in place additional measures to try to reduce transmission locally.

Because of all these changes, we have pulled together a handy guide for parents, young people and professionals. 

Here’s what you need to know on going back to school in Cornwall. 

There are four key changes

  1. Mixing and ‘bubbles’

Keeping pupils or students in year group or classroom bubbles to reduce mixing is no longer a requirement.

  1. Tracing close contacts

Close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace. Education settings are no longer expected to undertake contact tracing.

  1. Face coverings

Part of the ERA response, secondary school pupils, college students and all education staff are being asked to return to wearing face coverings in communal areas. This should also include corridors and shared transport (buses, trains and car share) but will not currently extend to classrooms and will be reviewed 2 weeks after the start of term by public health.

There are still exemptions in place for those who cannot wear a face covering.

  1. Testing

Schools will be providing assisted testing sites to enable students to test on return to school.  Regular twice weekly testing will also be encouraged for all pupils in secondary schools/colleges, all education staff and all families and households of children attending schools.

What remains the same?

The pandemic is not over so there will still be a need for young people in Cornwall to follow basic measures to avoid spreading the virus:

  1. Testing remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of the virus for staff and students in Y7 and above.
  2. As before, ensuring good hygiene including frequent and thorough hand cleaning and ensuring young people ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’.
  3. Schools will maintain appropriate cleaning regimes.
  4. Spaces where lots of people gather will need to be well ventilated.
  5. Following public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases of COVID-19.

But what if there are a number of cases in one school or college or if we see high numbers in an area?

If there are a number of cases in one school or college, there is advice in place so teachers and staff know what to do.

Download our school, college and early years toolkit for staff

Useful resources

Parents can be assured that schools will do everything they can to minimise the impact on education and attendance, so might decide to introduce measures like:

  • Increased testing
  • Enhanced cleaning
  • Temporarily reintroducing face coverings and;
  • Restricting attendance as a short-term measure and only as a last resort.

It may be that as part of a planned approach to manage cases in a wider area that these are implemented too.

Check out the #AskBrian video, where we put questions to our Public Health Consultant, Brian ONeil;

What if someone tests positive or has symptoms? Do they need to isolate?

Self-isolate straight away and get a PCR test (a test that is sent to the lab) on GOV.UK as soon as possible if you have any of these 3 symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

You should also self-isolate straight away if:

  • you've tested positive for COVID-19 either according to a PCR test or a lateral flow device test – this means you have the virus. If you get a positive LFD test you should book a PCR test. A negative PCR test will override a positive LFD test and allow you back to school.
  • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive (unless you are not required to self-isolate – see below if this applies to you)
  • you've been told to self-isolate following contact with someone who tested positive – find out what to do if you're told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app.

Pupils should only self-isolate if they have symptoms or if they get a positive PCR or Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test.

If they develop symptoms or get a positive LFD test they should book a PCR test. A positive PCR test cannot be overridden. If a pupil is asked to get a PCR test as a result of contact with a positive case they may continue to attend education until they get the result of their PCR back.

What else can we do?

On the school run – Maintain social distancing from other parents, wear a mask if this is not possible and don’t hang around at the school gates.

Car sharing – Maintain social distancing, wear a mask if needed and always try to travel with the same people.

Vaccination – If you have been offered a vaccine; take it. We are seeing the programme expand to include teenagers 12-15 over the coming weeks on top of the already expanded programme for 16 and 17 year olds.

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