As we have now started the new term, I think that it is important that I take time to write to you about staff and students, with regards to COVID-19 symptoms and testing.
I am sure you are aware that the symptoms of COVID-19 are officially listed as a new continual cough; a temperature in excess of 37.8°C; or the possible loss/change in their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia). Any student displaying any of these symptoms should not be sent to school and you should arrange for your child to have a COVID-19 test. Similarly, if we have any staff who are displaying any of these symptoms then they will be advised to book a test as soon as possible. It is important that we all monitor for potential symptoms and book a test if these develop.
In addition to those who may be presenting with potential symptoms, we also are aware that members of the school community may be contacted by the NHS Track and Trace system. We already know of some students who have been contacted through this mechanism and indeed we have had staff asked to have a test via the Track and Trace system. This does mean, in such a case, we lose the member of staff for at least 48 hours, while a test is arranged and they await the result; these instances will unfortunately create some discontinuity in teaching when it does happen. I am sure you would agree that we all should be co-operating fully with the Track and Trace program and these absences are unavoidable. If your child is contacted by Track and Trace we would appreciate if you could inform the relevant year group team.
In a school as large as ours, with 150+ staff and over 1400 students, it is inevitable that every week we will have people either displaying symptoms and awaiting test results, or who have been Tracked and Traced. We will notify any potential close contacts in such cases that someone is being tested. A close contact is defined by Cumbria Public Health, as someone who has spent 15 minutes or more within 2m of the person being tested. It is worth noting that in the case of a staff member being tested, it will be rare for any student to meet these criteria as teachers are 2m away from the nearest student in classrooms and rarely will be this close elsewhere for such a length of time.
If a test was to be confirmed for someone in the school as positive, then we would then re-contact everyone immediately who meets the aforementioned Track and Trace threshold as being a close contact and ask them to self-isolate for 10 days, even if they are not displaying symptoms, as per Public Health guidance. If this involved a large number of students in particular a “bubble”, we may take the decision at that point to ask the “bubble” to stay at home. We, of course, hope that this does not happen.
Safety is paramount to us at the school, as is the need for continuity of education for our young people. I hope this letter has helped clarify how the Cumbria Public Health guidance works on the ground within school regarding testing and suspected cases, for clarity the relevant flowchart is available here: Cumbria Public Health’s Flowchart for the Management of Suspected and Confirmed Cases of COVID19 in Education