St Helens staff and students asked to take Covid-19 test before return to school
All high school pupils and staff across St Helens are being urged to make sure they test for Covid-19 before they return to school or college next week.
Parents of primary school children in the borough are also being encouraged to take a test before schools re-open.
With schools returning for the autumn term after a six-week break, staff, pupils and parents are being asked to be extra vigilant and help prevent the spread of new infections during the coming weeks. This time last year we saw a significant increase in Covid-19 cases in the borough when schools returned after the summer holidays.
The latest Coronavirus figures from Public Health England for the week ending August 19 showed infection rates in 11-17 year olds in the borough is higher than in most other age groups, at 478 per 100,000. This reflects similar figures in January around the time pupils returned to school after the Christmas break.
Overall infection rates in the borough during the same period (w/e August 19th) were at 342 cases per 100,000, with 618 new cases.
As part of the drive to cut infections, all high schools in the borough are being encouraged to do regular on-site testing for pupils and staff, with primary schools also being asked to test staff regularly and also encouraging parents of primary aged children to do twice weekly testing.
To assist with this St Helens Borough Council will be providing staff to assist with on-site testing at a number of local high schools including Cowley International College, St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School, St Helens College and Carmel College during the opening weeks after pupils return
As an additional incentive to encourage schools to test, the council will also be offering £500 to the two high schools with the highest proportion of pupils tested up to mid-September, which can then be spent on school resources, such as arts or sports materials.
In addition a £500 prize will also be offered to the two primary schools who can show the highest numbers of staff tested at their school and can also demonstrate they have also handed out symptom free lateral flow testing kits to parents.
Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage said: “Recently there have been several changes to Covid-19 restrictions allowing greater social mixing, notably between families and at large social and sporting events.
“With the new school year now starting next week, what we want to avoid is a return to the disruption that we experienced during previous terms, with large numbers of positive cases and the impact that will have on the education of children and young people in the borough.
“So we would urge both pupils and their families to make sure they test before they return to school and for schools to keep testing both pupils and staff regularly on site. If we take this approach we can help to ensure that everyone in our schools is kept safe during the next few weeks.”
Councillor Kate Groucutt, Cabinet Member for Business, Education and Skills, said: “Pupils have experienced a lot of disruption to their learning during the last 18 months yet for this term there is the opportunity to return to school without bubbles or the need for isolation for the first time.
“However if we are to preserve those freedoms it is vital that pupils and teachers keep testing regularly especially during those first few weeks after they return to school. Let’s keep everyone safe and prevent further rises in infections.”
Ruth du Plessis, Director of Public Health at St Helens Council, said: “Our priority is to make sure that children and young people in the borough can begin the new school year with as much confidence as possible without the outbreaks of covid-19 that have disrupted their learning in recent months.
“The best way for us to do this is for children, their families and staff at all our schools to keep testing, both before they return to school and during those first few weeks when they return.
“To support this we will be providing staff at a number of schools in the borough to with either work alongside staff or provide a mobile testing site at the school. If we all work together during this important time we can help to keep infection rates down and pupils and staff safe. In addition we hope that the additional financial incentives we’re providing to schools in the next few weeks will further help to achieve that goal.”
Any pupils or staff who do test positive for Covid -19 before returning to school should not go into school and look to book a PCR test as soon as possible to confirm whether you are positive.
Free PCR testing is available at a number of local test sites. For further details on the sites nearest to you visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/letsgettestedYou can also order test kits at https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests or pick test kits up from a local pharmacy https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/