New three-tier Covid rules introduced for schools in Suffolk

Thumbs up for Ipswich School's teachers that have been testing pupils for Covid-19

Pupils have been testing regularly for Covid and will be advised to continue doing so - Credit: Ipswich School

A new three-tier plan is being introduced in Suffolk schools from next week to curb the spread of Covid-19 - but details have yet to be revealed.

Health and education leaders from Suffolk County Council has been working alongside the Department for Education to draw up a schedule of measures which can be introduced should Covid rates rise in schools.

Details of those measures have not yet been publicised, but council chiefs have confirmed the protocol will be finalised and implemented this week after school leaders have been briefed today and tomorrow.

A spokeswoman from the council said: “The plan proposes a three-level stepped up approach with different control measures at each level and differences between early years, primary, and secondary school and college settings.

“It includes a flowchart guide for settings to identify what level they are at and definitions of the recommended measures.

“The plan has been produced with input from education sector leads and is currently with the local Health Protection Board members for review. If no objections are received, it will be signed by the board, finalised and implemented.”

It comes as part of Suffolk’s designation as an Enhanced Response Area (ERA), which garners national support to tackle Covid rates.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health in Suffolk, said: “As part of the ERA we have also been working with schools and Department for Education colleagues about developing a new protocol to support schools in stepping up and down measures to make sure we are responsive and not over responding to the current situation.

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“As part of this also, we are looking at moving across to, where possible, daily contact testing for close household contacts. We still need to develop the detail around that but as part of that we have been asking for support about how we can implement that to try and keep children in school as much as possible."

He continued: “So far we have seen a positive picture from the half term, but we still need to see what is going to happen over the coming weeks about whether we will see the rates creep up.”

Currently 16 schools are dealing with outbreaks of the virus, with weekly school cases now between 600 and 800 compared to 2,000 prior to half term.

“We are still dealing with outbreaks in schools,” Mr Keeble told Friday’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting, but said half term had “provided a bit of a firebreak”.

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