Before schools and settings fully reopen from Monday (8 March), Councillor Anna Keen, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, and Bristol City Council Director for Education and Skills, Alison Hurley, share a joint statement to schools, teachers, and parents.
“We welcome the announcement that all schools will fully reopen next week. However, we recognise that the change in routine, along with more social interaction, may make some people anxious. We have always said that schools are best placed to make decisions about how they reopen, so we have worked closely with school leaders as they make their preparations, making sure the correct safety measures are in place, and will continue to support school staff, parents, young people and children in this transition.
“Over the last year, schools have undertaken comprehensive risk assessments and developed plans to support a safe environment for students and staff, which include bubble groups, staggering start and finish times, increasing ventilation and hygiene, wearing face coverings in some areas unless exempt, and more recently, the addition of rapid (lateral flow) testing. The Government has also now advised extending the use of face coverings within classrooms in secondary schools and Further Education (FE) settings, which will be reviewed as we move through the academic year.
“Around one in three people who have COVID-19 have no symptoms and will be spreading it without realising it. Rapid testing has been developed to help identify cases where individuals are not showing symptoms. Where cases are identified, they will be asked to self-isolate to help reduce spread of infection. All secondary, including Special Educational Needs (SEN), and FE students and staff will be offered three tests to be completed at school, before then being provided tests to complete at home twice each week.
“Staff in primary (mainstream and special) schools will continue to test twice weekly at home. Children under 11 are not included in the rapid testing programme.
“Testing is also available for households who have a child or young person returning to, or continuing to attend, school or college, who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. Childminders and adults in childcare and support bubbles with households that qualify for testing, and adults working in the wider school community, including bus drivers and after school club leaders, are also eligible. Three existing Local Testing Sites are operating as a Community Collect sites for households to collect rapid tests after 1:30pm each day:
- Hengrove Leisure Park, BS14 0HR
- Netham Park, BS59RU
- Victoria Rooms Car Park, BS8 1EG
“The Council are working on extending the number of Community Collect sites for tests and are awaiting Government approval for this plan. For further information on this scheme, please visit Coronavirus (COVID-19): rapid testing - bristol.gov.uk. You can also order a smaller number of kits online through GOV.UK.
“We would encourage you and your household to access these tests as an additional tool to help keep schools safe and drive down transmission rates amongst students and staff.
“We know that infection rates in schools are often driven by transmission in the wider community. It remains essential that we all continue to follow government guidance outside the school gates.”
If you have any questions on the measures in place, please contact your school directly.
If you, or your children, are particularly anxious about the transition, support is available to you. Visit our website for a range of mental health and wellbeing services for all ages, or call the 24/7 Support and Connect helpline on 0800 0126 549.
Practical support for those unable to leave home, such as shopping and picking up prescriptions, is available through the We Are Bristol free helpline on 0800 694 0184.
See the latest COVID-19 guidance and information on support in Bristol here.