Hundreds of thousands of students are returning to the classroom this week to ease Covid-19 security measures.
School principals unions have warned that less mitigations this term could lead to rising infections among school-age children, with one leader suggesting it was a “case of hope” by the government.
Schools and colleges in England no longer need to hold students in grade “bubbles” to reduce mixing, and face covering is no longer recommended.
Children do not need to isolate if they come into contact with a positive Covid-19 case. Instead, they have to undergo a PCR test and only isolate if the result is positive.
But all secondary school students are invited to two Lateral Flow Device Tests at school every three to five days on their return to school in England.
Secondary schools and colleges are allowed to stagger student returns in the first week in order to cope with the asymptomatic Covid-19 testing process.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it seemed “bizarre” that security measures were relaxed for this term despite warnings from scientists of higher cases.
He told the PA news agency, “There were a number of slowdowns at the end of the summer semester, and it seems bizarre that this semester we’ve gone from far less stringent measures without knowing how effective it will be.” warn of the likelihood of an exponential increase in infections in school-age children.
“It feels a bit like a case of blow and hope from the government.”
Students in England and Wales are starting to return to the classroom this week.
Most of the schools in Northern Ireland returned last week, but all of the remaining schools will open on Wednesday.
Schools in Scotland have already returned after the summer break, and the reopening is said to have contributed to an increase in cases north of the border.
Mr. Barton added, “With the majority of students preparing to return to the classroom this week, there is an urgent need for stability and for the government to review the situation and be ready to support schools and colleges if so the case. ”is required.
“We just cannot have a situation where we see an alarming spiral in early school leavers again and we must be wary of the health risks of infection.”
He also called on the Joint Vaccination and Vaccination Committee to make a decision on whether vaccinations should be given to younger students.
The NHS is preparing to ensure that it can potentially offer Covid-19 vaccines to all 12-15 year olds in England from early September, although a decision has not yet been made on that age group.
Schools and colleges in England are still being encouraged to increase hygiene and ventilation this semester, and secondary and college students have been asked to continue testing at home twice a week.
Last month, the government announced a £ 25 million investment to roll out around 300,000 carbon dioxide monitors in government schools and colleges in England to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.
The recommended security measures differ slightly in the four countries.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, is concerned that the lifting of many measures could lead to further “disruptions”.
He told PA, “The concern is that the government has lifted almost all of the slowdowns we had when the schools collapsed. This could put school principals in an awkward position with parents who may not understand all of the changes the government has mandated.
“We are also concerned that there will be disruptions in the fall semester with increasing cases in children of school age. This may require emergency action on the advice of local authority health officials or the central government. That will cause further confusion. “
He added that the introduction of CO2 monitors will only confirm where there is poor ventilation.
Mr. Whiteman said, “In some classrooms it is not so easy to open a window, especially with the onset of winter.
“We’re going back to school in September with the same picture for ventilation as 12 months ago. This is not a good situation. The government must equip the schools properly to avoid further disruption and quickly. “
Earlier this week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said parents should ensure their children are regularly tested for coronavirus as he warned teens not to be “carried away” when they return to schools.
His comments came after experts warned that it is “very likely” that major coronavirus infections will occur in schools by the end of September.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said: “Education remains a national priority, and the success of the vaccine program means schools and colleges will provide their students with high quality, personal education with minimal disruption.
“The measures in place strike the right balance between keeping schools safe – with improved ventilation, Covid tests and vaccinations for older students and staff – and reducing disruption by removing blisters and face coverings.”
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