Derry school ‘dissatified’ by PHA Covid contact tracing process

A Derry school has sent a letter to parents to express its ‘dissatisfaction with the lack of consultation and transparency since the PHA have taken over the contact tracing process in schools’.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 1:22 pm
There have been thousands of COVID cases in NI schools.

The letter, which has been seen by the Journal, said the Derry school has a considerable number of Covid cases across all year groups and they have not been contacted by PHA to help identify children who would previously have been deemed a close contact

The school said it is ‘deeply concerning’ that parents are not being informed of this important information.

They have encouraged parents who have concerns to contact the Education Minister, the Chair of the Education Committee or the Chief Medical Officer

The Public Heath Agency, who took over the contact tracing in schools on September 10, said that the approach to identification of close contacts in a school setting has changed due to a ‘growing body of evidence’ about the damaging impact of the pandemic on children.

A spokesperson for the PHA said: “Within a school setting, a child would only be identified as a contact if they have had prolonged close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. This could mean a child in the same household or someone who has stayed overnight.

“It will also include intimate contact for example, kissing and where a child has received help with personal care in a school. It does not include all children in the same class or all those who sit next to each other, because the risk of COVID spreading in the school setting is much lower than in a household.”

The spokesperson added: “The approach to the identification of close contacts in a school setting has changed because there is a growing body of evidence documenting the damaging impact the COVID pandemic has had on the health and wellbeing of children and young people. School is incredibly important for the health and wellbeing of children as well as for their educational attainment.

“We now have evidence which shows that the vast majority of those identified as school close contacts and sent home to isolate during the 2020/21 school year did not go on to develop COVID-19.”

The spokesperson said if school leaders have queries relating to the disruption caused in school by suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 they should be directed to the Education Authority emergency helpline.

They said further information to address concerns of parents can be found at pha.site/contacttracingschoolsFAQs