Schools – a few practical issues
We reported last week that Somerset County Council would leave opening schools to the discretion of headteachers. There are obviously a number of practical considerations for dealing with the virus in a school setting
We thought our readers might like to know the answers given to some of those questions. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does cover some areas that will be of concern to parents and children.
Nor do we pass comment on the responses by SCC and whether or not they are adequate. The questions are posed by the National Education Union and answered by SCC’s education team:
Q1. Who is responsible for helping infected schools to meet best practice in infection control?
In Somerset we are taking a proactive approach to infection prevention and control and are working with Public Health England to develop a number of training resources for school staff to help them achieve best practice in infection control. These include webinars which will cover topics such as ‘breaking the chain of infection’ and ‘management of outbreaks’. In the event of a suspected or confirmed case within a school, Public Health England South West Health Protection Team must be notified. They will conduct an initial risk assessment with the school and give appropriate advice adhering to national guidance on testing and contact tracing. If concerns are raised by either the local authority, the education provider or PHE, a multi-agency outbreak control meeting may be held and additional support provided.
Q2. Who is responsible for PPE supply in schools where shortages are reported or where an infection is confirmed and additional PPE is required for infection control or will schools be closed until it is cleared?
We have agreed that we will provide schools with an initial supply of PPE that meets the requirements set out by the DfE and Public Health England. Schools will be able to purchase additional supplies via the County Council or a provider of their choice. We will e abel to provide additional PPE at short notice of it is deemed necessary.
Q3. Who is responsible for accessible and agile testing with quick results turnaround?
The national testing programme has now been expanded and all individuals who are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus are able to request a test through NHS 111. As part of the national track and trace programme, the SW PHE Health Protection Team will be able to identify children who have been in close contact with a confirmed case and require self-isolation and testing. The national testing programme is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Care. The Local Authority public health team will be notified of all positive cases in a school setting by PHE.
Q4. Who is responsible for contact tracing where schools or staff who may work across a number of schools and are confirmed as infected?
Public Health England will be notified of all suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus in a school. They will then conduct a risk assessment and assess what level of contact tracing is required for the given situation. As part of the national track and trace programme, children or staff who have been in close contact with a confirmed individual will be traced and the appropriate advice given. This is the responsibility of Public Health England. The Local Authority will be informed of all confirmed cases in school settings to enable monitoring of the local situation.