Back to school - a message from our Public Health Director

Back to school – but not as we know it

Over the last few months, we have all been asked to do things that may have been difficult for us, such as stay at home, avoid meeting up with family and friends, keep two metres apart from others and to wear a face covering when in shops or on public transport.  All of these things help to keep us stay safe and to protect others from COVID- 19.  These actions have made a difference and, as I write, the number of people with COVID- 19 in Scotland continues to fall.

We are learning about COVID-19 all the time.  The latest evidence suggests that children may be less likely to acquire COVID-19 than adults and, if they do, thankfully they appear to have milder disease.  Children rely on social interaction with their peers to learn and for their wellbeing.  For these reasons, experts agree it is time to get back to school.  All schools are being advised by the same experts as to the best way to protect our children.

As quickly as our children were thrust into the isolation of lockdown, they will be dealing with new rules, routines, classrooms, classmates, teachers and, for a few, a new school.  To help make the transition easier, here are some things to consider:


It’s good to talk: if your child is anxious or worried, help them to understand this is perfectly normal and that you and their teachers are there to support them.


Know the rules: it is important for your child to understand why they are important so it’s not a shock when they go back.


Hand Hygiene:  the best thing we can all do to stop the spread is to wash our hands regularly – encourage the habit now.


Pack right, pack light: make sure your child takes only what they need for their school day. If they travel to school by public transport, they will need to have a face covering and think about how they take it off, dispose or store it during the day.  Wipes and hand sanitiser are also a must if they are out and about.


Avoid the crowd: staggered times will reduce the chance of a crowd gathering but, if it happens, make sure your child knows to rethink and keep their distance until it disperses.


Zero Tolerance: if your child is feeling unwell, keep them at home.  Anyone with a high temperature, new continuous cough, loss of (or change in) sense of smell or taste, or who has had contact with a family/community member with symptoms should not attend school and should be tested as soon as possible.  They should remain at home and everyone in the household should self-isolate until you receive your results.  

If the test is negative, everyone can stop isolating (and return to school).  If the test is positive, the person who is positive must isolate for 10 days and those in their household for 14 days.  NHS Shetland Public Health Team will work closely with the school to identify anyone who may be identified as a contact and ensure all necessary action is taken to prevent spread and keep everyone safe.

For ideas and advice on how to manage discuss these topics with your family (and a lot more!) visit the Parent Club website.

If the number of people with COVID-19 in our community begins to grow, some of the measures may need to be strengthened.  To keep up to date or to get more information, you can follow NHS Shetland on social media (Facebook or Instagram), look out for announcements in local media, visit NHS Inform or call the free helpline on 0800 028 2816 (The helpline is open from 8am to 10pm each day.)


Susan Webb

Director of Public Health

NHS Shetland