Last updated: 5 March 2021
After remaining open throughout the current lockdown for vulnerable children and children of critical workers, schools and education settings across Southampton are making preparations to safely welcome more children back from Monday 8 March, in line with the government’s roadmap out of the current lockdown.
Southampton City Council and Public Health England have been working alongside school leaders and staff to make sure that pupils and staff are as safe as possible when they return. For secondary schools and colleges, this includes mandatory lateral flow COVID testing for each student and teacher prior to reopening.
There will be a staggered return for most secondary schools and colleges to allow for testing systems to be established. Primary and Special Schools and Early Years settings will have access to the same twice-weekly testing regime for staff, though primary and early years aged children are not asked to be tested.
Schools in Southampton are communicating with parents and carers directly regarding arrangements for reopening and testing.
Other safety measures that will be employed across all education settings include the use of social distancing measures and frequent hand-washing, good classroom ventilation, and the wearing of face coverings in secondary schools and colleges.
Testing to support the return of schools
To help keep schools and the wider communities safe, the council is encouraging residents and workers in Southampton who have sustained contact with children and young people, to participate in twice-weekly testing to support the safe return of children and young people to schools and colleges, and to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.
From Saturday 6 March households, childcare and support bubbles with children, young people or teaching and support staff attending early years, schools or college, can access lateral flow tests through the council’s symptom-free testing sites. A link to the booking system is available from the council’s website, with details on the locations and times of operation for each site. Testing will be available 7 days a week and slots must be booked in advance.
Members of households, childcare or support bubbles of school staff and pupils can also collect home test kits from DHSC run testing sites to self-test and record at home, and order lateral flow device home test kits online, though online ordering should only be used by those that cannot get a test through the other methods.
Because not enough is known about how well the vaccines reduce transmission of infection from one person to another, those who have already been vaccinated should still engage in symptom-free testing.
Councillor Darren Paffey, Cabinet Member for Children and Learning, said:
“These have been difficult times for our young learners and I’d like to say a huge thank you to them, and their parents and carers, for their efforts at home schooling since the start of the year.
“Returning to school is important for young people’s academic and personal development and, while it’s understandable that there might be some anxieties, the Council has been in constant dialogue with school leaders, staff, public health experts and trade unions, who have all worked immensely hard to prepare for pupils returning as safely as possible.
“With schools doing everything they can to keep their staff, pupils and families safe, it’s also crucial that we all play our part. So I encourage everyone who is eligible for the COVID testing that is on offer to get tested, so that we can all help to reduce transmission and protect our school communities.
“To all of you returning from Monday and beyond, welcome back – you’ve been missed!”
Jason Ashley, Headteacher at Redbridge Secondary School and local representative for the ASCL teaching union, said:
“In schools and colleges we’re looking forward to welcoming all pupils back, and want to reassure families that all the measures put in place with colleagues from education, health and unions means that we’ve done everything we can to keep our school communities safe”.