Members are concerned about the recent COVID 'variants of concern' (VOCs) that are prevalent in certain areas of the country at the moment. We are very concerned about this too, and have spoken with officials at the Department for Education to learn what measures schools and settings can take to minimise risk.
As a minimum measure, we advise schools, colleges and early years settings to follow their risk assessments and to implement a robust system of controls. This includes thorough cleaning regimes, regular handwashing and wearing of face coverings for all staff and pupils (in year 7 and over). The DfE and local public health officials are also reinforcing the importance of testing and the vaccination programme.
We are also trying to find out more from the department on the nature and spread of this new variant of concern and have asked for data but, as was reported at the weekend, this is not yet publicly available.
In the meantime, as we have done since the beginning, we recommend:
- regular staff and pupil testing;
- risk assessments; and
- control measures such as face coverings, consistent bubbles, ventilation, handwashing etc.
Update from DfE, 18 June 2021:
Education secretary @GavinWilliamson has written to parents of secondary school and college pupils in England about the importance of continuing regular Covid testing and reporting.
He said that continued support from families in helping fight the virus is vital.
— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) June 18, 2021
The PHE coronavirus resource centre has been updated with new accessible testing resources to support outgoing communications to parents and students in secondary schools and colleges.