10/09/2021

Schools No Longer Expected To Carry Out Contract Tracing

Northern Ireland's schools will no longer be expected to carry out contract tracing, following an agreement between the departments of Education and Health.

Contact tracing will now be taken forward by the Public Health Agency's (PHA) Contact Tracing Service, which brings Northern Ireland into line with that of England, Scotland and Wales.

Making the announcement, Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen said: "I recognise the significant burden and challenges that principals have faced since the start of the new term in trying to support contact tracing in schools.

"I want to particularly acknowledge the incredible efforts of school leaders, staff and board of governors in ensuring that effective contact tracing has been in place.

"Over the last few days I have held meetings with the Minister of Health and his officials to urgently resolve this issue.

"It has been agreed that from tomorrow, the PHA's Contact Tracing Service will take forward the work of contact tracing in schools without the significant level of involvement of school staff that has been the case to date. Only those with the closest contact will be required to isolate and take a PCR test. This move is another step towards normality."

Concluding the Minister said: "Only in certain circumstances will a school be asked to assist.
News Image
"This change aims to result in fewer contacts being asked to isolate, and importantly reduce disruption to our children's education. It also reflects the evidence that very small numbers of close contacts go on to be a positive case. This step will allow schools and other settings to focus on what they do best, which is to educate and support our children and young people."

The Department will write to education settings this week to outline the changes in more detail.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride said: "In recent weeks we have seen large numbers of children in schools identified as close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases. This has caused disruption in schools and put pressure on school staff, pupils and parents. I have worked closely with colleagues in the Department of Education to agree an approach that minimises disruption for children and schools while supporting our continued efforts to reduce transmission of COVID. Schools have a range of measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID transmission and remain safe for children and staff.

"We will continue to monitor the numbers of cases in schools and the PHA will work closely with school leaders to respond and support with large clusters and outbreaks.

"I would like to thank school staff, parents and most importantly the students for their continued patience and support at this challenging time."

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

07 December 2021
Assembly Backs New Smoking And E-Cig Regulations
The Assembly has backed plans to ban smoking in private vehicles when children are present, as well as preventing the sale of nicotine inhaling products such as e-cigarettes to those aged under 18.
19 January 2022
Executive Urged To 'Do More' On Integrated Education Provision
The Executive has been urged to "do more" to increase integrated education provision, as it considers the new Integrated Education Bill.
25 November 2021
PSNI Officers And Staff Sign White Ribbon Pledge
The PSNI has signed the White Ribbon pledge, as part of an international campaign to end violence against women and girls. Police officers and police staff have signed the pledge on White Ribbon Day (25 November), which kick-starts 16 days of action to end violence against women and girls (VAWG).
26 November 2021
New Awards Scheme Announced For Use Of Irish Language In Businesses
A new awards scheme has been announced to promote the use and recognition of the Irish language in businesses by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey. The GRADAIM Awards are earned by organisations that use Irish in their business or that provide services through the medium of Irish to their customers.
13 January 2022
Education Minister Urged To Introduce New School Starting Age Legislation
The Education Minister has been urged to introduce new legislation on school starting age, following a consultation that showed 90% of respondents supported the move. A consultation was held on proposal to allow parents to defer their children starting school.