Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 24th January 2022.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to help ensure comprehensive covid-19 mitigation practices in schools in Newcastle.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education)

COVID-19 continues to be a virus that we learn to live with and the imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education remains, balanced with managing transmission risk.

My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, has announced that from 20 January, face coverings are no longer recommended in classrooms and teaching spaces for staff, and pupils and students in year 7 and above. They were introduced in classrooms at the start of the spring term as a temporary measure. From 27 January, face coverings are no longer recommended in communal areas for staff, and pupils and students in year 7 and above.

However, a range of a range of protective measures remain in place. Local directors of public health may temporarily advise the use of face coverings in communal areas or classrooms where this is proportionate due to specific local public health concerns.

Testing remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 within schools and colleges. Staff and secondary school pupils should continue to test twice weekly at home, with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits. Schools are encouraged to ask all visitors to take an LFD test before entering the school.

Young people aged 5 to 18 and fully vaccinated adults who are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 can take an NHS rapid LFD test every day for 7 days and continue to attend their school or college as normal, unless they have a positive test result.

People with COVID-19 in England can now end their self-isolation after 5 full days, as long as they test negative on day 5 and day 6.

Every child aged 12 and over is eligible to receive the vaccine. Healthy 12 to 15-year-olds can have a second dose. All 16 to 17-year-olds will be offered the booster vaccination.

Children aged 5 to 11 years in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed are now able to get two doses of the vaccine.

We have provided carbon dioxide monitors backed by £25 million in government funding. Over 99% of eligible maintained schools, further education colleges, and the majority of early years education providers have received a carbon dioxide monitor, with over 350,000 delivered. The government is now making available at least 7,000 funded air cleaning units for poorly ventilated teaching spaces where quick fixes to improve ventilation are not possible.

Schools should regularly review their risk assessments and continue to comply with health and safety law implementing proportionate control measures in line with our guidance. All education and childcare providers should have contingency plans in place in cases of outbreaks within schools, as set out in the contingency framework, to help break chains of transmission. This framework is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings.

Regarding Newcastle upon Tyne, the measures in place apply nationally as the department no longer applies different local measures. However, local directors of public health have the discretion to apply some local rules as outlined above.

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