Whilst most students and teachers have now returned to classrooms following school closures earlier in the year, the road ahead is proving difficult to navigate as the second wave of coronavirus gathers pace and schools battle to prevent outbreaks in their communities.
Senior leaders must now focus on developing policies and working with local and national authorities to effectively manage coronavirus cases when they arise, and mitigate further infections.
Here at iSAMS we’ve been working to develop Covid-19 specific tools and processes to make things easier for schools. We know there’s no silver bullet, but here are our suggestions for how your MIS can help you manage coronavirus in school…
The scale of absences due to Covid-19 is now becoming stark, with more than 400,000 children in England off school in the week commencing 12th October – 50,000 of which with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.
This could be due to a student or staff member presenting symptoms, obtaining a positive test result or coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive or shown symptoms.
There are a large number of permutations as to why a student may be absent and each presents a subtly different challenge to your school. Keeping track of Covid-19 related absences in their various guises will therefore play a vital role in monitoring and maintaining the health and wellbeing of students and staff.
We recommend using your school registration software to keep track of each kind of absence. In our Registration Manager module, users can set up special Covid-19 registration codes. Each time a register is taken, those students that are off school for a specific reason can be marked absent according to these stages of the self-isolation process. This allows staff to stay abreast of student and staff absences in an efficient manner.
There can also be no denying that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of both students and teachers. A recent Guardian investigation found that one of the largest private eating disorder services reported a 71% rise in admissions in September compared with the same period a year ago, whilst more than a quarter of young people felt unable to cope with life amid the pandemic and almost a third reported suffering panic attacks.
Many students are likely to be asked to self-isolate in the coming months if they or a family member present symptoms. Further isolation from peers following lockdowns earlier in the year may negatively affect students’ mental health, so monitoring their wellbeing during isolation and afterwards will be a key concern for schools.
Our Wellbeing Manager module allows school staff to log wellbeing concerns, such as those related to coronavirus, and track their progress over time. Staff have the option to flag concerns, notifying relevant staff using other iSAMS modules of the concern and allowing them to view any notes related to the student.
Track and Trace
If a student or staff member tests positive for the virus then steps must be taken to prevent further spread. Under current government guidance, all students and staff that have come into close contact with this person must be identified and asked to self-isolate.
This is no easy feat given the many crossovers between form groups, classes and extra-curricular activities. Several schools using iSAMS had raised this issue on our Discussion Forum and, given the urgency and importance of the task, our Reporting Services team designed a Student Track and Trace report.
The report lists all students and staff that have come into contact with a selected student between a specified date range and arranges them by the number of times they have been in the same contact group.
For students showing symptoms, it is also important to keep an accurate medical record to track both the short term and long term effects of the virus.
Recording symptoms as they arise will be useful when booking a test for the student in question and determining the length of self-isolation the student must complete, with current government guidance stating:
“If you have symptoms, the 10 days start from when they started. If you have not had symptoms, the 10 days start from when you had the test. But if you get symptoms after your test, self-isolate for a further 10 days from when your symptoms start.”
Our Medical Centre module can be used to record a Covid-19 status on a student’s profile, and compile additional information such as the date the symptoms were first detected and whether they have received a test. The module also allows staff to flag the condition, which will then be displayed in other modules such as Registration Manager, ensuring relevant staff are kept up to date with a student’s health.
Communication really is key during these uncertain times, with parents understandably feeling nervous about their child being back at school and staff under pressure to manage their teaching workload alongside additional coronavirus-related duties and restrictions.
Our Daily Bulletin Manager allows schools to inform specific cohorts of staff, parents and students about significant events in school such as a positive case of Covid-19 and ensure the correct information is received by relevant parties.
Managing individual cases of Covid-19 effectively is crucial to protecting the school community, but it is also helpful to establish a bird’s-eye view of absences across the school community to identify any trends with infections.
iSAMS offers you the capability to produce reports detailing all absences for the various circumstances surrounding Covid-19.
Should a case of coronavirus be suspected or confirmed within school, it is likely that teachers and other staff – as well as students – may need to self-isolate. This could pose a challenge to schools as they may need to source cover for lessons at short notice, either from internal staff or an external agency.
In our Cover Manager module, staff can be listed as absent due to them needing to self-isolate or having tested positive for the virus. This allows school management to run reports and keep records of staff forced to stay at home throughout the year. The module can also be used to assign cover for the absentee’s lessons from a pool of available teachers.
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