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Returning to school/nursery for clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people who have previously been on the COVID-19 shielded patient list

Little boy wearing a face mask
04 September 2020

Who is this advice for?

Children and young people who fall into CEV category B and who have been told by their clinical team that they can pause shielding in line with government guidance.

What does this add to the government guidance?

The government have stated that shielding has been paused from 1 August 2020. People who were previously shielding should now follow the same precautions as the rest of the population, such as hand hygiene and social distancing.

We are aware that returning to school/nursery will be an area of anxiety for many families and we are offering some guidance around the frequently asked questions which have been directed to our clinical teams. Families may wish to use this information alongside local discussions with their child’s school/nursery.

Does my child need additional provisions to protect them on return to school/nursery?

The government advice is that your child should follow the same precautions as other children returning to school with hand hygiene and social distancing.

Schools will have undertaken a risk assessment outlining the measures they are putting in place for all pupils; this should be published on their website.

What hand hygiene does my child need to follow?

They should clean their hands more often than usual, particularly after arriving at school or home, when returning from breaks, when changing rooms, and before and after eating or handling food, as well as after touching their face, blowing their nose and sneezing or coughing.

To clean their hands, they should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap and dry them thoroughly, or use alcohol hand rub/sanitiser ensuring that all parts of the hands are covered.

It is likely that schools will encourage children to do this but you may wish to send your child with their own personal hand sanitiser.

How should my child social distance or reduce contact with other children?

Schools will have put in measures to alter the environment (such as classroom layout) and your child’s timetables (such as staggered break time) to minimise contact and mixing. This may be more difficult to enforce for younger children which your school/nursery should discuss with you.

Some schools may have staggered start and finish times to minimise mixing but it is important that your child is aware that they should also socially distance from friends on the way to and from school if unsupervised. If your child usually travels on public transport they should follow general guidance which includes wearing a face mask if over 11 years.

If classes are laid out in rows there is likely to be less exposure to people coughing/ sneezing if your child sits in the back row.

If you child has school dinners it may be possible to see if your child can have permission to leave the classroom 5 minutes early to ensure they are at the front of the queue.

Your child can eat with other children at meal times but should not share food or drinks and should adequately clean their hands before and after eating.

Some schools may allow toilet passes to minimise mixing in bathroom areas at the busiest times if they are not operating a “one in one out” policy.

Will my child still be able to get treatment in school?

If your child has supervised treatment of injections and medication this should still go ahead, however the supervisor (often a teaching assistant or school nurse) will be suitably distanced from your child. It is worth talking to your school about how this may work. For some treatment such as chest physiotherapy or inhaled nebuliser treatment we recommend that this is not undertaken in school currently.

Should my child wear a face mask to protect them?

The current government guidance has not mandated that children and young people wear face masks in schools. Some schools may decide to encourage staff and pupils to wear masks.

Currently wearing a face mask is thought to be of benefit to reduce the wearer from infecting other people if they have COVID-19, rather than protecting them. There is a risk that children may be irritated by wearing a mask and this will encourage them to touch their eyes, nose and mouth and may therefore increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

What if I decide that the risk is too great to my child to send them back to school?

The government have indicated that all children and young people should return to school for the new academic year in September.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have reviewed all the data on COVID-19 in children and have asked specialist paediatricians about their experiences of COVID-19 in all the conditions which have been previously required shielding. They have used this information to write guidelines which the government have used to help make the decision about returning shielded children to school.

In addition to this your child’s clinical team who know them best have been asked to review your child to ensure they are happy to pause shielding. You will receive a letter to confirm this. If you have received this letter or had a discussion with your team at Sheffield Children’s Hospital then you can be reassured that the risk is felt to be low for your child.

What should I do if I still have questions?

The UK Government COVID information website has a lot of useful resources. 

Your clinical teams will be able to help you if you have additional queries.

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