Letter from Director of Public Health

December 2021

Dear parents and guardians,

I would like to begin by thanking everyone for all your support through what has been one of the most difficult academic years on record.

As the autumn term draws to a close and we head towards the Christmas break with the additional challenge of the Omicron variant, I am sure you are all looking forward to spending time with your loved ones and enjoying the festivities. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone in the borough to pull together to keep our children, young people, and families safe, to minimise the disruption to their education and so that they can take part in all of the Christmas activities they love so much.

We are working directly with your school to support them with advice and guidance. We are continuing to follow Department for Education guidance, as set out in the “Schools COVID 19 Operational Guidance” and “Contingency framework: education and childcare settings”. The overarching objective of this guidance is to maximise the number of children and young people in face-to face education or childcare and minimise disruption whilst continuing to reduce the ongoing transmission of COVID-19.

I am requesting your support to keep our children and communities safe and well by supporting “5 ways to winter wellness”:

  1. It is now mandatory to wear a face covering in shops and enclosed public places when you mix with people you don’t normally live or work with. This includes public transport to school and is recommended on dedicated school transport. Staff in all settings are asked to wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas as are students in secondary schools and colleges;
  2. Wash your hands regularly and use sanitiser when you are out;
  3. Take regular rapid lateral flow tests, including before you attend any organised or family events;
  4. Get fully vaccinated against COVID 19 – including the booster dose when you are invited to take up the offer;
  5. Keep rooms well ventilated, particularly when spending time indoors with people you don’t live with.

Vaccinations

As you are no doubt aware, everyone aged 12 and over can now get a COVID-19 vaccination. Many thanks to those of you who have already taken up this offer. This is one of the most important things we can do to protect our children from becoming unwell with COVID-19.

Children aged 12 to 15 can get vaccinated against COVID-19 either through their school or at a walk-in centre in BwD. If they have missed the session at their school, mop up sessions are planned and you will be informed of them through school. You can also arrange for your child to be vaccinated via the National Booking System online or by calling 119. Second doses will now be available 3 months after the first dose.

It is important to remember that whilst schools may host immunisation services, they are not responsible for securing parental or child consent. This is an important part of this process, as it is with any other vaccination programme. Staff at the vaccination site will always ask for consent before giving the vaccine to your child.

If you would like more information to be able to make an informed decision with your child, please visit the NHS website where you will find information about walk-in centres, resources for children and young people about the vaccination and a consent form. If you attend a walk-in centre with your child, you will not need to have downloaded any of this – the staff will discuss everything with you at the time including consent.

Young people aged 16 to 17 years and 8 months can book their second dose from 12 weeks after their first dose. Information on walk-in centres in BwD is available here or visit the Lancashire and South Cumbria Health Partnership website for more information.

Testing

One of the most important things we can do to stop the virus from being spread within the school setting is to continue testing twice a week at home using your free lateral flow tests. If your child has one or more of the following Covid-19 symptoms, you must ensure they isolate and you should book a PCR test for them immediately:

1. High temperature

2. New, continuous cough

3. Loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

If the PCR test result is positive, you must isolate from the day the symptoms began and for the next 10 days. If your child has other symptoms and you are in doubt, take a PCR test and keep them at home, as you normally would if they are unwell. If your child did not have one of the three symptoms listed above when they tested positive, but develop them while self-isolating, you must start their self-isolation again starting from the day they developed the symptoms and for the next 10 days.

Close Contacts

Contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19 should follow the Stay at Home Guidance for households with possible Coronavirus infection. This guidance is changing rapidly at the moment, but the link will automatically update.

I have no doubt there will be more challenges ahead, but we can make a positive difference to our children's lives if we work together.

Getting your child to school if you have COVID 19

If you are positive for COVID 19. You must stay at home and self-isolate. Your child can still go to school unless they develop symptoms and test positive themselves. The local Test and Trace service will ask you about this when you receive your test result and will be able to arrange home to school transport through the Local Authority.

Thank you once again for your patience and support during these difficult times. I would like to wish you all the very best for the festive season.

Yours faithfully,

 

Prof. Dominic Harrison Director Public Health

 

 

Cllr. Julie Gunn Executive Member Children & Education

 

 

Jayne Ivory

Strategic Director Children & Education