Swine flu – preparing for the new school term

By on 03/09/2009 in Blog

Birmingham City Council is preparing to make sure that schools are ready if and when the second wave of pandemic flu hits the city, as is widely predicted by health officials and experts.

Jim McManus, the City Council's Joint Director of Public Health is leading a plan to ensure that schools are equipped and well supported…

The first point we must continually reiterate is that we want to try to keep schools open as much as possible.

This is because we need to keep Birmingham open for business – many nurses, social care staff and other key people from drivers to retail, factory and office workers rely on schools being open.

If they aren't, the regular daily plans of many people would have to change dramatically, causing disruption on many levels in the process.

We also need to realise that swine flu is, at the end of the day, just another form of flu and schools in Birmingham have a lot of experience of dealing with outbreaks of disease.

A working group has been brought together by the city council, and is now putting in place a series of measures to ensure the city's schools are ready for the next wave.

Schools will be given updated guidance on what to do, from hygiene measures to handling sick students.

Every headteacher and a governor from every school is being invited to a specially-organised training session later this month where they will learn key steps to take.

At the event they will be given a new guidance pack and a checklist of key actions to enable them to plan for the next wave of the virus.

Additionally, schools are also to be given a template plan for managing with staff and students absent, and also a template plan for what to do if they really need to close.

A DVD package which has learning films for children and for staff has also been commissioned with our partners in health and it is anticipated that this will be distributed by the end of September.

The Health Protection Agency, NHS and city council are working closely together to ensure that everything we can do will be done before the virus hits again, and that the learning from the first wave is applied to what we do together.

Headteacher mentors are also being recruited. These are headteachers who have been through the experience of having a lot of people (staff or students) ill during the first wave, and who can give advice and the benefit of their experience to schools affected during the next wave.

Special training is also being organised for the school nurses in Birmingham. Within the plan schools are also being encouraged to consider how they share classes or resources if they are hit by swine flu.

A helpline for teachers and schools which the city council ran during the last wave is starting up again for the new term.

Guidance has also been issued on handling concerns about staff or students who may do less well with flu.  Together these measures should mean we can weather the next wave as well as we are able to.

The aim is to keep as many schools as possible open and functioning. We expect there will be some school closures during the next wave, but as with the first wave, we will try to keep these to a minimum.

Headteachers, staff, parents and governors in Birmingham did some brilliant work during the first wave and many of them have already said they intend to keep to business as usual if we have another wave as widely predicted.

Some schools are already planning to pool classes or share and pool essential staff like catering staff so they can help out between them.

All in all, the coming months could be very challenging, but we have put the foundations in place to ensure that Birmingham's schools are as prepared as they can be.

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