COVID in Fife; Pupils’ ‘worryingly high’ absences at start of new term

School pupils across Fife have been urged to continue testing for COVID at home for the foreseeable future in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

By Craig Smith, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 7th January 2022, 5:35 pm
Updated Friday, 7th January 2022, 5:35 pm

Youngsters and staff returned to classrooms across the region on Thursday and, although official figures have not been released by Fife Council, it is understood absences have been at a worryingly high level.

Indeed, hundreds of pupils have been marked absent at one of Fife’s biggest secondary schools, Kirkcaldy High School, over the first two days of the new term, while staffing has also been stretched.

Rector Derek Allan, whose school normally has a capacity of around 1400 pupils, highlighted the challenges faced thus far in a letter to parents.

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“It would be good to report that it’s been a smooth start, but we’ve had around a quarter of all pupils absent, much of this absence related to COVID,” he confirmed.

“We’ve also had 20 or so of the teachers off, and I’m one of them.

“As you maybe know, I’m having to self isolate due to a COVID case in my household.

Head teacher Derek Allan . (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

“So well done to all who are in, and best wishes to those who can’t be right now.

"I’m hoping that the recent changes to self isolation rules will be helpful.

“Of course, this is all dependent on effective testing at home, so please continue to support that important process.

“We make a daily return to the education service and the school level data is used to track the spread of the virus and to inform staff planning.

“Yesterday we reported 32 new cases among pupils, but I suspect that this is not the full picture.”

Mr Allan said all young people were supplied with additional test kits on Thursday, while face masks have also been made available from the school’s reception or from teachers.

However, like most Fife schools, the advice is for young people to provide their own and look after it.

The situation at Kirkcaldy High is just a small snapshot of what is understood to be a similar position across the region, and all pupils are being urged to take lateral flow tests twice weekly.

Anyone who receives a positive test result, those with symptoms, or those identified as close contacts, should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test.

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It is our absolute priority to keep schools safely open and minimise further disruption to learning.

“To achieve that, we need the help of the whole school community.

“We are grateful to schools for their continued efforts to stress the importance of asymptomatic testing.

Parents of secondary pupils can also help by encouraging their children to make testing part of their weekly routine – and, importantly, to report all results online, whether positive, negative or void.

“Safety guidance for schools was updated in December in light of Omicron and it is crucial that all the mitigations are strictly followed.

“These include physical distancing, one-way systems and the correct use of face coverings.

“By testing regularly and following the mitigations, pupils and staff can all play their part in keeping themselves, their families and their schools safe.”

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