SECONDARY school pupils and staff will still be asked to take a coronavirus test twice a week in the autumn term, leaders in the town have confirmed.
Students in both primary and secondary school settings flocked backed this week after the summer holidays, and despite changes being implemented from when they were last allowed in school, regulations remain in place.
The bubble system - which saw children only mix within a fixed year or class group - has now ended and schools will no longer be required to stagger start and finishing times or avoid children mixing at lunch or in the playground.
Mel John Ross, the council’s executive director of children’s services, is hopeful youngsters won’t be as disrupted as they were last year.
She said: “It will soon be time for a new school year, and while I hope that we will not see the disruption experienced during the last academic year as we know children’s wellbeing is made better from the social interaction and structure that school provides, we are still living in the midst of Covid-19 and the effects will still have some impact.
“We’ve been working closely with schools to ensure a safe return to the classroom following the changes to government guidance and all schools have their own outbreak management plans.
“Our public health team will no longer be the lead for schools contact tracing this is being picked up by the Department for Education via a dedicated helpline.
“Our team will continue to provide advice and support where needed, including outbreak management.”
Rates in school-aged children have dropped dramatically whilst they haven’t been attending school, but Ms John Ross is encouraging secondary school students to still take two tests a week.
In mid-July, when many youngsters were still in school, rates in 15 to 19 year olds surpassed 2,000 per 100,000 residents - though during the holidays they have since dropped to less than 500.
“Self-testing before term will help reduce the risk of transmission and I encourage secondary school pupils to take part in regular twice-weekly testing throughout September,” she added.
“Testing can help reduce the risks of Covid-19 outbreaks in schools.
“This, in turn, can help reduce the likelihood that staff or children and young people will have to self-isolate due to outbreaks.
“Any pupil under 18 who tests positive for Covid will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate.
“The child - or their parents - will be asked to provide information about close contacts at school and elsewhere, and their contact details, if known.
“Secondary school pupils and staff are being asked to continue self-testing twice a week, beginning a week before the start of term.
“This advice will be reviewed at the end of September.
“Please keep your child at home and get them a PCR test as soon as possible if they have any symptoms of Covid-19.”