Testing urged before return to school

Southend’s Director of Public Health is encouraging parents and carers to get their children tested to support the safe return of all school pupils from Monday March 8.

Krishna Ramkhelawon has urged all school aged pupils and their family to use the borough’s rapid testing sites ahead of the classrooms returning. This is to keep schools safe and protect the wider community from asymptomatic people, those without symptoms, from unknowingly spreading the virus.

Southend is one of the only authorities in the country to have set up a school-only LFD testing site to support schools, which is located at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre in Eastern Avenue.

There are also public community LFD testing sites at University Square, Southend, St Aiden’s Church in Leigh-on-Sea and Shoebury Youth Centre in Shoeburyness.

If your child travels into a Southend school but your family lives out of the borough, please check the website of your local authority for community testing sites near to your home before the return to school next week.

Once schools have reopened to all pupils, schools will be running their own programmes, but the council is supporting them. As part of this, St John Ambulance has agreed to provide four mobile testing sites to use at three secondary schools, to support the school testing programme and keep them COVID-safe.

Community testing staff will run the units, alongside staff from Southend United Community and Educational Trust who will be going to each mobile testing unit, Monday to Friday to marshal and support the children and school.

There will be a number of ways that children can access tests depending whether they are in secondary or further education and based on which school they attend.

Krishna Ramkhelawon, director of public health, said: “This is important for the safety of the children, the staff, every family and the wider community. Over the last few months we have increased capacity at our asymptomatic testing sites, for people who are continuing to work in the community but are not displaying any of the COVID-19 symptoms, such as a temperature, new continuous cough and loss of taste or smell.

“As education settings reopen, it is important we try and protect as many people in our community as possible.”

Parents are encouraged to check the website of their child’s education setting for more details.

A letter from Councillor Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and education, was also sent on Friday February 26 to parents via schools, thanking them for their hard work, patience and perseverance with home learning over the past year.

The letter also reminds parents of the steps they can take to help protect their children and families from the spread of the virus. This includes, parents wearing a face mask, if they are able to, when collecting or dropping off at school, respecting social distancing and making sure children do not take non-essential items into school.

Cllr Jones, said: “Our parents have gone above and beyond to make sure their children’s education did not suffer because of the pandemic. It has been a difficult year; for the children, who have been away from their friends and learning environment, and for the parents and carers, who I am sure never expected to have to take on a teaching role.

“I want to thank them and our amazing school staff who have proven to be well prepared for this second education setting closure and have continued to educate children virtually and support families.

“Now it’s time for all children to return to their classroom and we need our parents to continue doing the fabulous job of keeping them safe and well by getting tested, wearing face masks and following the school’s directions.”

We are encouraging all school-aged children to take an asymptomatic test at one of the following sites which are open seven days a week and accessible to all. You can book a test at www.southend.gov.uk/gettested or simply turn up.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]