'Vital' for South Tyneside's children to return to 'normal education' - but some safety measures remain

Secondary schools across South Tyneside will be carrying out Covid testing on children to enable a safe return to the classroom and help ensure a “normal” education.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 5:00 am

South Tyneside Council confirmed all secondary aged pupils with parental consent will be required to take lateral flow tests to reduce the risk of transmission.

The council statement said: “Secondary pupils, including those in transition from Year 6, will take two on-site tests at the start of the autumn term followed by two tests per week at home.

"Asymptomatic testing in education settings is to be reviewed at the end of September.”

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South Tyneside secondary school students will need to take two on-site lateral flow Covid tests before being able to return to the classroom. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Many schools have a staggered start to the first week of term to enable children to be tested and for home testing kits to be distributed.

Concerns had been raised about the impact of children returning to classrooms on case numbers after the return of pupils to Scottish schools last month was blamed on a large spike in the Covid rate.

One of those schools operating a staggered start is Harton Academy.

In a message to parents, acting headteacher David Amos said: “We are looking forward to welcoming your child back to Harton and hope that the worst of this pandemic will soon be behind us all so we can focus on the children’s education and well-being.

David Amos, acting headteacher at Harton Academy, is "hopeful" the worst of the pandemic is behind us and that schools can return to focusing on education. Photograph: Jason Oshin

“Please do remind your child to follow the same hand and respiratory hygiene rules the government has emphasised over the past 18 months."

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In an online message to parents, Whitburn Church of England Academy has also decided to retain some ongoing safety measures.

The message said: “Department For Education guidance is that schools should return to ‘normal’ following the changes made to reduce the impact of Covid last year.

Whitburn Church of England Academy will be retaining certain safety precautions such as year group social zones and hand sanitiser points. Photograph: Google Maps

"We’ve decided to keep some of these changes as they were beneficial for student welfare and safety. There’s also common sense guidance on hygiene which we would like the school community to follow.”

The school will continue with separate year group social zones and children are being encouraged to wear face masks on buses and try to “sit with a consistent group of people where possible”.

Students are also being asked to continue to use hand sanitisers when entering and exiting the building and are encouraged to practice good hand hygiene throughout the day.

The school also said toilets will “be cleaned throughout the day” and staff and students may wear face masks if they wish to.

While previous restrictive measures such as teaching in bubbles will no longer be required, the Council are hopeful children will now be able to return to some semblance of a normal education.

A spokeswoman said: “Children and young people have seen an unprecedented level of disruption to their schooling over the past 18 months. In order to recover, and to mitigate the effects of this, it is vital that they can experience as much normality and stability in their settings as possible when they return in September.

"Maximising attendance and face to face teaching will be key to this. Given that clinical evidence shows that the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 is extremely low in children and young people, the guidance has been designed to create the conditions for as normal a return to school as possible within the context of the continued pandemic.”