Covid-19: Update around schools returning in Manchester

Further public health advice has been delivered to Manchester’s schools to help them decide whether and how they can open their doors to more pupils.

Most schools have remained open throughout the pandemic to look after children of key workers or those who are vulnerable. 

But with the government proposing that more school years go back to school, guidance has been provided by Manchester’s Director of Public Health to help schools make an informed decision and risk assessment. 

The current advice from Public Health England does not recommend a blanket decision to limit school numbers based on the regional R rate. 

The intake of children will be under continual review by headteachers and the number of pupils returning to school may have to change based on local factors - and these decisions will be supported by the Council. 

Cllr Garry Bridges, Manchester’s Executive member for Education, said: “The people in the very best position to make a final decision are the headteachers who know their school buildings, children and families, and conditions best, and who have done extensive risk assessments.”

He added: “We have not as a council said that all schools should close or all schools should open to more children. 

“Instead we have worked with schools and unions to get the best solution for each setting to increase pupil numbers in a planned and controlled way - and this has been the approach throughout. This is equally important for early years settings.”

Around 2,000 children across Manchester have been going to school throughout the pandemic. This week has seen an increase of around 1,500 - and follows the introduction of extensive measures within schools to ensure pupil safety. 

Cllr Bridges said: “The school population is around 87,000, so numbers are still quite small, and we will look at safe and steadily increasing numbers where that is appropriate, and only if it’s the best thing for the school and the children.”

Manchester Council has now shared further advice with schools from the Director of Public Health, David Regan.

It advises:  

  • Given our understanding of the data available to us and the variability of infection rates across the North West, Manchester is likely to be one of the local authorities in the North West where the rate of effective transmission is less than 1. 

  • All the managed settings (schools, workplaces, care homes) should have risk assessments and procedures in place to be COVID-19 secure. 

  • Schools are a managed setting (unwell staff and children should stay off school) and schools will be a priority setting for access to testing locally via the Manchester Test and Trace Service.

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