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Return to School and Mass Testing (Jan 2021)

Information about the roll-out of mass testing and when pupils are expected to return.

 2nd January 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

Re: School Reopening and Testing – January 2021

I hope you and your families continue to be safe and well. Following our communication last week, I wanted to provide an update regarding the key elements you need to know regarding school reopening. This letter focuses on opening details, testing and limited critical worker/vulnerable child provision.

I appreciate the challenges that school closure causes for pupils and their parents/carers, and I will never take decisions such as these lightly. In SEND we are in a challenging position, where our everyday practice requires us to have much closer contact with our pupils than in most other schools, whilst at the same time having a greater number of pupils with complex health needs. The health of our school community has to come first and we simply cannot open to all pupils at this time.

 

School Opening:

Although this is a fast moving situation, we plan the following if guidance allows:

  • Monday 4th January: INSET day remains in place.
  • Tuesday 5th – Friday 8th January: Woodlane High School will be closed to all pupils, except those of critical workers and those on child protection/child in need plans. All pupils will receive remote learning.
  • Monday 11th January: All pupils in KS4 will return. KS3 will have a further week of remote learning, which will include a significant increase in Live Learning (Teams – Video Lessons). Children of critical workers and those on child protection/child in need plans in KS3 will continue to attend.
  • Monday 18th January: All pupils in KS3 will return.

 

Testing:

Schools are expected to roll out mass testing to all staff and pupils, (with parental consent) and we have made positive steps forward to be able to offer this by the time pupils return on the dates above. At this time, official figures suggest that a third of all Covid-19 cases have no symptoms. Mass testing in schools should allow us to identify a lot of these asymptomatic cases and protect our school community.

On their first day back in school, we aim for every pupil to be tested using Lateral Flow Tests. This involves a swab of the back of the throat and one nostril, (or 2 nostrils if it is not possible to swab the throat). Lateral flow tests provide a result in 30 minutes and can be completed safely in school.

School staff will not be able to swab pupils, they will be asked to do this independently. We hope the vast majority of parents will give consent for pupils to complete a test in school using the forms attached. Pupils will also take a follow up test 3-5 days later. Only staff that your child is familiar with will be supporting with testing, and prior to the test pupils will receive support in school to understand the process. We will send home materials next week that you can use to discuss testing with your child.

This testing in school is only for pupils and staff who are asymptomatic. Anyone who develops symptoms, should continue to follow the Government guidance and stay home, and get a test via the website (https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test) or by calling 119. Symptoms include:

  • a high temperature,
  • a new, continuous cough, and/or
  • a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste.

If a pupil tests positive through mass testing in school, they will be isolated and will need to be collected immediately. The pupil will need to take a PCR test, which are the usual tests obtained through the Government website. Parents may already be familiar with these, as they are the ones used throughout the pandemic at drive-in centres and by post. PCR tests are generally more accurate and are used to confirm the results of the lateral flow tests. They are sent away to laboratories, which is why they take 24-48 hours to return a result. Woodlane can provide a postal test to any pupil who tests positive, to support with this process.

One significant benefit of testing in school is the improved processes if a child comes in to contact with someone who tests positive. Close contacts of a positive case will now have a choice about whether to complete a 10-day period of isolation, (as has been standard practice until now), or whether to continue to attend school and undergo daily testing. This type of testing is called ‘release’ testing, as it allows staff and pupils who have no symptoms to be released from isolation. This does not apply on weekends however, when close contacts should continue to self-isolate. Further advice will be provided on this release testing during the Q&A on Wednesday 7th January.

Testing remains a choice and once school reopens, pupils will not be stopped from attending if parents opt-out of this process or if a child is not able to self-administer the test. We would like to work with any parent where this occurs and can be flexible around allowing parents to procure their own tests to complete at home, or stagger a pupil’s return to school to allow a parent to support with their child’s test.

 

Testing Q&A:

We appreciate that there is a lot of information here, therefore if you need this provided in a different format, or have specific questions, please contact school via the usual methods.

Parents/carers and anyone who supports your family is invited to attend our Virtual Q&A which will take place on Wednesday 7th January at 10am and at 5pm (remotely via Microsoft Teams). The same information will be provided at both sessions. There are 2 time slots to support those parents who need to work, or have other commitments. The information will be published online after the Q&A, including anonymised questions if you cannot make one of these times.

Join by clicking on the correct link:

 

Critical Worker and Vulnerable Pupil Provision:

We will be offering a limited provision (opening on Tuesday 5th January) for pupils whose parents are critical workers, and for those pupils with Child Protection or Child in Need Plans. For a definition of a critical worker, visit the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

This provision will be as follows:

  • Pupils will attend 9am – 12.30pm in school. Lunch cannot be provided for pupils, so pupils should bring a packed lunch.
  • This provision will be staffed by a combination of agency staff who have worked within the school before, and staff who have specifically offered to support.
  • Pupils will follow the same curriculum and online learning that subject teachers will be providing to all those working from home.
  • Local authorities have suggested that transportation will be available.
  • All pupils who are attending would need to have a negative Covid-19 test in the 48 hours prior to attending school, or would need consent to independently complete a test in school on arrival.

 

If you wish to discuss your child attending this provision, please contact school via the admin@woodlane.lbhf.sch.uk email address. Due to the high infection rate in the borough and limited staff availability, this provision will be extremely limited.

 

You will find attached to this letter, the Consent Forms and Privacy Notice that we ask all parents/carers to review and sign prior to testing beginning in school. It is extremely important that you review both documents at the earliest opportunity.

I truly hope all families are well and we are looking forward to seeing all pupils very soon. In the meantime, London remains in Tier 4 and I hope all families will continue to follow the guidance. The key message remains stay at home.

 

Yours sincerely,

Tim Heapy
Interim Headteacher