School and early years settings
Coventry City Council has provided comprehensive support for all schools and early years settings in the city, over the course of the pandemic. A strong partnership between Education (lead) and Public Health has been established, which has enabled joint risk assessment to be undertaken regarding necessary actions required to control school outbreaks, whilst minimising the disruption to the education of children. A dedicated 7 day a week service has been provided for schools, for reporting of all cases and to receive any queries. This service continues as we move into the next phase of the pandemic and a predicted difficult winter.
The Education team have worked closely with Primary and Secondary partnerships (involving all schools, irrespective of whether they are LA maintained or not) to develop a consistent approach to COVID-19 response across the city, and the view of the partnership and headteachers has shaped our local response e.g. our local approach to contact tracing and approaches to COVID-19 mitigation as we go into the first term of 2021/22 academic year.
Early years settings have benefited from visits from our Environmental Health Officers who rapidly developed additional expertise around issues facing these settings, where social distancing is less possible. A lessons learned document was developed based on findings from previous outbreaks and visits to these settings, which was then shared within the sector. Similar learning was also shared with schools.
Schools have experienced significant disruption during the course of the pandemic related to intensive contact tracing activities and isolation of children, and each serves different communities, with differing needs. Setting up a local outbreak response process has enabled us to very quickly share lessons locally, and to develop and improve our outbreak investigation process.
Schools and early years settings have actively promoted the vaccination programme to parents, with a small number having put themselves forward as sites for outreach vaccination.
Feedback from partnerships, headteachers, and early years settings has been that they have felt supported by people who understand the local context. The relationship between the local authority and headteachers/setting managers has developed greatly over the last 18 months, which lays firm foundations for further growth and joint work.
Key lessons learned from Early Years and Education Engagement
- True partnership working is essential – two-way communication and co-development of local policy
- Consistency of approach is important, particularly for local parents and communities, but with an understanding that guidance will be interpreted in different ways
- Allow schools/settings to take ownership as they know their community the best but offer support where needed