Covid-19 tests for Basildon school pupils
Essex County Council (ECC) has written to parents and carers of young people aged 10-19 attending two Basildon Schools in areas with high Covid-19 rates, to ask them to arrange a PCR test for their child – regardless of whether their child is displaying Covid symptoms.
This comes as the latest data for Basildon shows that this age group represents the highest number of cases, at 24.6%. However, this does not mean that infections necessarily originated within the school environment.
This targeted approach is also being rolled out on a priority basis to other secondary schools in Basildon with a confirmed outbreak or an increasing number of cases in the school community.
Parents with children at the first two schools - The Bromfords School and The Basildon Lower Academy – have been written to today and others will be written to in the coming days.
Based on expert advice from Public Health England, the County Council will be working with those schools in borough that have been most affected by Covid-19, to offer testing for young people between now and the end of term. This will help to avoid blanket closures and any impact on schools in areas with lower infection levels.
It will also allow for appropriate and proportionate measures to be put in place more quickly to prevent further spread, without unnecessarily disrupting the education of all children and young people, or impacting more widely on parents and carers in Basildon, particularly those that work during school hours.
If parents whose child attends a school in one of those areas proactively books a test now, those young people who test positive but who are asymptomatic can quickly be identified and instructed to self-isolate.
This will in turn support schools with acting more quickly in respect of any close contacts or bubbles. From today, in Basildon, if one pupil tests positive all pupils in that bubble will be asked to self-isolate and will be moved to remote learning. If the bubble is a whole year group, the whole year group will need to self-isolate.
Increasing testing for pupils at schools will also help families avoid potential isolation over Christmas by excluding cases and groups now, so their isolation period is complete before Christmas.
Dr Mike Gogarty, ECC’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “We have always been guided by the data in terms of our Covid-19 response and it is absolutely vital that we take an informed and proportionate response in respect of schools.
“Encouraging parents and carers to book tests for their child if they attend one of the identified schools will help us to act more quickly and reduce the likelihood of cases spreading even further.
“It is also part of wider work being undertaken across all schools in the district to reduce the rate of transmission, including a review of the threshold criteria for year groups and bubbles to self-isolate so that schools can take action on the basis of smaller numbers of cases.
“However, for any preventative measures and current guidance to be as effective as it can be, it is vital that everyone continues to adhere to Government Covid-19 guidelines. This includes staying at least 2m away from anyone you do not live with, working from home wherever possible and isolating straight away if you develop symptoms.”
The letter to parents also includes a reminder around encouraging their child to adhere to social distancing at all times when in and outside of their school setting.