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'Test Before Term Starts'

Testing of students and staff is being stepped up ahead of schools reopening for the spring term.

Education says it is introducing a 'package of enhanced measures' in conjunction with Public Health.

It includes the return of 'classroom bubbles' in primary schools and in Years 7-9 at secondary schools, and no after-school clubs and activities.

All pupils should take a Covid test before returning to the classroom next week, and for the first three days of the new term.

The aim is to keep schools and educational settings fully-operational and minimise disruption to children's learning.

The measures include:

• All students and staff are asked to ensure they have negative LFTs on the day before they return to their setting and on the morning of each of the first three days of term.

• Schools may implement changes to drop-off and pick-up times to stagger the number of people on-site at any one time.

• Classroom bubbles will be re-introduced for primary schools.

• Classroom bubbles will be introduced for KS3 (secondary school years 7-9).

• Face coverings are strongly recommended in classrooms for secondary and post-16 students, with additional outside breaks worked into the school schedule.

• No off-island trips will take place this term

• No on-island trips from one school to another

• No school-run extra-curricular clubs or activities for the time being

Parents and carers are also asked to continue wearing face coverings when on school grounds.

Staff and all students from primary school age upwards should continue taking LFTs twice a week (on Tuesdays and Thursday) before attending.

Students with Covid-19 can return to school on day 7 providing they test negative on days 6 and 7 and have no symptoms.

They can only attend 'core educational provision' until day 10 - that means no clubs, groups or activities until then.

"Towards the end of last term we tried to be upfront with the community and staff that things would look different in January. We need everyone involved in the delivery of education, which includes parents and carers as well as staff, to support us by adapting to what is likely to be a new norm – for the time-being at least - of managing disruption as a result of absences while maintaining our absolute focus of keeping settings open and delivering education.

This package of measures is designed to help us achieve that as much as possible. There will be disruption, it is unavoidable, but by introducing further measures specific to education we are trying to minimise that disruption, slow or halt the spread wherever we can so that our young people can maintain their studies. That is our priority while the island as a whole manages the implications of this Omicron wave." - Nick Hynes, Director of Education

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