The Minister for Education has welcomed the imminent start of the new term and has moved to reassure parents and young people about the safeguards that will be in place to keep students safe in the classroom.
Latest medical advice from the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) and the Medical Officer of Health states that it is safe for Jersey’s primary and secondary schools and colleges to fully re-open next week as long as certain health measures can be maintained.
A full list of the precautions has been published on gov.je today to help reassure parents of the safety of their children.
The recommended approach within primary schools continues to be to form whole class “bubbles” and to limit the interaction between different ‘bubbles’. However, there is no requirement for physical distancing between primary school pupils.
In secondary schools and colleges, there is also no physical distancing requirement between students, although year groups will be kept as separate as possible.
Schools and colleges will enforce at least one-metre physical distancing between all adults and between adults and children wherever possible. There will also be staggered start and finish times, and a continued emphasis on rigorous hand hygiene and enhanced cleaning.
Officers from Education have worked closely with the teaching unions and headteachers to ensure the safe reopening of schools and each school and college will have a detailed plan for the arrangements that are specific to their setting.
To ensure the safety of pupils and teaching staff, COVID-19 infection rates in the local and international communities will continue to be carefully monitored and any changes may result in alterations to the guidance issued to schools. These changes will be led by Public Health in consultation with school and college leaders and union colleagues.
Nurseries have already re-opened and are closely following Public Health guidance.
School buses will be in operation from the start of the new term. Although the wearing of face masks is not required within schools, Public Health has recommended that children over the age of 11 wear masks while on school buses to help prevent the risk of transmission. However, the wearing of face masks for school pupils will not be a condition of travel. Wearing a face covering remains a condition of travel on all LibertyBus network buses for everyone over the age of 11 unless they are medically exempt.
The Minister for Education, Senator Tracey Vallois, said: “I’m delighted to be welcoming all children and young people back to the classroom for the start of term. Things will look and feel different within the school and college setting, but I want to reassure parents, students and teaching staff that their health is our number one priority.
“We have based the full re-opening of schools on expert medical advice. The same advice has led us expertly through this health emergency to get Jersey in the strong position that it is currently in.
“I would like to thank heads, teachers, support staff, unions and nurseries for their incredible efforts in working with us to ensure next week’s safe re-opening of schools and colleges. It is imperative that all our young people get the chance to return to the classroom at the start of term and I wish them all well in the upcoming school year. I would also like to thank the nursery sector and play providers who have been open throughout the summer, maintaining these vital services.”
The Medical Officer for Health, Dr Susan Turnbull, added: “I am sure that children and their parents are really looking forward to next week’s return to school. We know even more now to be reassured that this is highly unlikely to generate any extra health risks for children from COVID-19. Clinical experience internationally has been increasingly showing that children are at very low risk of becoming seriously ill or dying because of COVID-19.
“Most children who catch COVID-19 either have mild symptoms, or none at all. Additionally, research is still showing that they seem much less likely than adults to be the source of COVID-19 spread to other people. Locally, we know that the return of children to school before our school summer holidays did not result in any increase in COVID-transmissions.
“Conversely, being away from school has definite risks. School attendance is one of the most important factors in any child’s health, current and future. School improves health, learning, socialisation and opportunities throughout the life course including employment. Lack of schooling, for whatever reason, is one of the most important factors in perpetuating socioeconomic and health inequalities.”
Government of Jersey News Release.