Created on: 17 Sep 2021 | Last modified: 21 Sep 2021
Some progress has been made in relation to the new Test and Protect (T&P) procedures regarding EIS concerns about teachers and schools not being informed promptly around positive cases amongst pupils.
This stems from contact tracing now been handled by Local Health Teams, which have adopted the approach that pupils are deemed low risk and therefore routine contact, such as sitting next to someone all day, is similarly deemed low risk and only something such as an overnight stay would create a high-risk category, instigating direct contact from T&P and the need for a PCR test.
We are wary of this approach and argued for all close contacts, as previously defined, to be required to take a PCR test. This was not conceded by either PHS or the Scottish Government but it has been agreed that all pupil contacts, as identified by schools, will now get a targeted “warn and inform” letter, renamed an “information letter”, with a recommendation that a LFT (Lateral Flow Test) is undertaken before pupils return to class.
Teachers of classes where positive cases have been identified will receive an information letter also, which is an improvement.
The Test and Protect approach, both within schools and outwith, is that routine contact between children and adults will not trigger a direct notification to adults unless there are circumstances which create a higher risk threshold e.g. family circumstance.
As a result, teachers are unlikely to be identified by Local Health Teams as high-risk contacts, with that aspect now reverting to schools (as it did under the old system).
Schools, however, are not routinely contacted by LHTs, whose default is to advise the parent of a positive child to report the matter to the school. In our view this potentially creates a delay in teachers becoming aware of any increased risks.
Whilst double vaccination does offer a level of protection, it is clear, given the record high number of teachers infected despite nearly 94% double vaccination, that it is not a guaranteed protection. Additionally, many teachers have heightened vulnerabilities or live with family members in the same situation.
We have expressed serious concern, therefore, at the potential lack of rigour in the communication process and are pressing for LHTs to automatically inform schools of all positive cases.
Once the school is aware of a case, it should issue the information letters to pupils and staff as required.
EIS advice to members, thereafter, is that if you receive an “information letter” letter you should immediately take a Lateral Flow Test and, further, if you are anxious about the personal risk, believe that you are in fact a close contact of the pupil (as previously defined), or have increased vulnerability you should request that your HT immediately seeks further advice from the LHT and you should book an asymptomatic PCR test (schools are now able to request a supply of PCR tests to enable quicker processing) whilst awaiting any contact from LHT.
If you are blocked in this pathway, you should seek advice and support from the EIS.