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Half-term offers Covid break for Warwickshire schools as vaccine roll-out slows

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SECONDARY schools have reintroduced some of the Covid safety measures that were in place during the worst days of the pandemic.

At some schools in the Stratford district children are having to wear face masks in classes and corridors, and some year groups have returned to home learning as positive cases soared.

The impact of Covid is also being felt at primary schools where extracurricular activities have been cancelled, some classes have been told to stay home and face masks are mandatory for anyone entering school sites.

The measures are being strongly recommended to schools by the Warwickshire County Council Education Public Health team after cases in the district have continued to rise while the rollout of the vaccine among teenagers has been slow.

Most of the rules are aimed at Years 7 to 10, the year groups that comprise 12 to 15-year-olds, for who a vaccination programme is currently under way. The programme began on 20th September, but so far only 15 per cent of the cohort in England have received the shot, with most being given in schools.

This slow rollout has prompted the decision to open vaccination walk-in centres to 12 to 15 year-olds across half-term.

Headteacher of Stratford-upon-Avon School, Neil Wallace, told the Herald: “Nationally the school age immunisation service has struggled with the capacity required to vaccinate all 12 to 15 year olds before half-term. Fortunately, two-thirds of our eligible students had parental permission and have now been vaccinated at the school.

“We are grateful to our NHS colleagues for their support. That should give our wider school community greater confidence going forward. We will continue to keep a close eye on case numbers locally, however, for the moment, what we are doing seems to be working well.”

The October half-term looks to be a vital fire-break for schools, allowing time for students to get to vaccinated and for transmission rates to fall.

Speaking to MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee, NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “To make the most of half-term we will be opening the national booking service for young people – 12 to 15-year-olds – to have their Covid vaccinations at existing vaccination centres.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “The key to bringing levels of Covid infection back under control in our schools and colleges is clearly the vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds but it has not been happening fast enough. It was painfully slow to get under way in some areas and has been beset by logistical problems, not to mention being disrupted by the irresponsible actions of anti-vaccination protesters.

“The announcement from NHS England that young people can attend vaccination drop-in centres during the half-term holiday is a big help and we hope they will do so in sufficient numbers to help slow the spread of the virus.”

Data released on Friday by the Office for National Statistics about positive daily tests for coronavirus in England found that an estimated 8.1 per cent of children in school Years 7 to 11 had tested positive compared with 1.1 per cent in those aged 16 to 24.

In addition, in the week ending 9th October, 1.5 per cent of the population in parts of Warwickshire, including Stratford and
Warwick, tested positive for coronavirus.

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