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Covid 19 (Coronavirus) - Information for Shine Members: August 2020

27th August 2020


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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)


27th August 2020

Parents update - Back to School

Schools will be reopening in September for all year groups in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and the government has said that all pupils will be expected to return. We understand that this may cause anxiety for parents and for children so we’ve put together this update to inform you, reassure you, and help you to get ready for your child’s return to school. 

Why are schools reopening? 

The decision for children to return to schools is based on our increased clinical understanding of coronavirus and the well-established social, intellectual, emotional, and health benefits of school-based education. The Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has said there is “very clear evidence from the UK and around the world that children much less commonly get a severe illness and end up having to be hospitalised if they get symptomatic COVID." In his statement on schools and childcare reopening CMO Whitty stated that the risk to children’s physical and mental health from missing out on schooling is greater than the risk posed by coronavirus. The full statement goes into more detail but is summarized as follows: “Children may have a lower risk of catching COVID-19 (lowest in younger children), definitely have a much lower rate of hospitalisation and severe disease, and an exceptionally low risk of dying from COVID-19. Very few, if any, children or teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school. This has to be set against a certainty of long-term harm to many children and young people from not attending school.” 

The statement is supported by research, including Office of National Statistics data which show that of the 46,735 COVID-19 deaths that occurred between March and June, just 10 were in children (under 19s) i.e. around 0.02% or 1 in 4674. It is also supported by a Public Health England study of >1 million primary and pre-school children who attended English schools in June: based on this, children were thought to be more likely to catch coronavirus at home than at school. Schools have not been closed to protect children, they were closed to protect older and vulnerable people that children might spread the virus to. When/if your child returns to school you will need to take care about contact they may then have with older or vulnerable relatives and friends. 

This Nature article has more information about the risk of infection, and infection severity, in children.   
In terms of spina bifida and hydrocephalus: there’s no evidence to suggest that having these conditions automatically increases someone’s risk for getting severe coronavirus disease. The only conditions that are known or suspected to increase risk are listed by the NHS here

A couple of things to note when reading the NHS advice: 

  • Where “having a condition affecting the brain or nerves” is listed in the moderate risk group, this does not include either spina bifida or hydrocephalus. There are more than 600 neurological conditions and while some of them increase coronavirus risk, there’s no evidence that this includes spina bifida or hydrocephalus. 
  • Where “lung condition that’s not severe” is listed in the moderate risk category, this would include people with higher spina bifida lesions (thoracic to L1) that restrict lung function/expansion. Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) can also restrict lung expansion. 
School preparations 

Schools have remained safely open throughout for some groups of children and they have gone to great lengths to prepare for the return of the wider student population. The government have produced detailed guidance for schools and childcare settings on protective measures and further guidance about the full opening of schools.  

If you are concerned about whether your child’s school is adequately prepared for the safe return of pupils, we suggest you discuss your concerns with the school. It is important that you are comfortable with the protective measures they have put in place and they may be able to alleviate some of your worries. The key areas to check on are: hygiene, cleaning, and social distancing. This back-to-school checklist from WellChild has some useful things to think about before your child returns. This detailed guide to COVID-19 prevention and control in schools from the World Health Organisation has information and checklists for teachers & other school staff, and for parents, and pupils. 

If your child has specific needs such as personal or intimate care, you should discuss with the school about how they will ensure these needs are met. Reasonable adjustments should be made to ensure your child can learn and be cared for safely. 

If after talking to the school you’re still not confident in the measures they have put in place, then you may be able to continue home schooling, sanctions will only be considered as a last resort. We would strongly advise keeping discussion going with the school to avoid problems now and in future.  

To help get your child ready for returning to school, make sure they: 

  • Have clean uniform every day, shower and change when they get home
  • Understand about proper hand hygiene: washing 20 seconds with soap and water and drying them thoroughly, how and when to use sanitizer 
  • Understand about respiratory hygiene: about coughing or sneezing into a tissue, then throwing it away immediately, or covering their mouth with their inside- elbow if they don’t have a tissue  
  • Understand about social distancing: about how and why to keep a 2 m distance from other pupils 
  • Are prepared for school and the classroom to be arranged differently and for routines and procedures to work a little differently e.g. desks might be positioned further apart, there may not be assemblies or access to soft toys, playtimes might be staggered. There’s no one set of changes that will work for all schools so it’s worth talking to the school about what the specific changes will look like for your child and to discuss any concerns you or they have. 

This childrens’ guide to coronavirus has been produced by the Children’s Commissioner and aims to help children to understand the pandemic and to explain how to stay safe and protect other people from the virus. The NHS also have some coronavirus resources for children and young people

Special Education Advice and Coronavirus 

IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) have produced a detailed Q&A resource about how coronavirus measures affect children and young people with special educational needs. They have also produced model letters which you can use if you are not satistied with the special educational provision being made for a child or young person during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Masks/face coverings

The government have now advised that in England secondary school pupils will need to wear masks in all communal school areas (except classrooms) in the event of local lockdown. Head teachers in all secondary schools will also be able to introduce masks in their schools should they decide to. Face masks are to be worn in corridors and on school transport in Northern Ireland, and in Wales the decision will be left to individual schools and councils. Our update from July 23rd has more information about masks including the benefits of wearing them, the best designs, how to safely take them on and off, and who is exempt from wearing one. 

Parental leave

It may be that you need to take some time off to look after your child if they are ill or self-isolating. In this case you would be entitled to unpaid parental leave, ACAS have more detailed information about leave entitlements for parents and additional entitlements to parents of children with disabilities.  

A gentle reminder

When and how your child returns to school is not something Shine can decide. As a parent you need to balance the risks and benefits of your child attending school, and then work with the school to help achieve the best and safest learning environment for your child. However, we are here to support you if you need information or guidance to inform your discussions with the school. 


6th August 2020 

Getting medical help  

It is essential that you get medical help if you need it. 
Delaying getting healthcare may mean that your illness/injury/condition can worsen and become much harder to treat. 

Hospitals have been reporting patients presenting very late in medical emergencies due to anxieties about coronavirus.  Going to the GP or hospital might be a scary prospect but healthcare settings have put good infection control procedures in place to keep staff and patients safe. Shunt malfunctions in particular are medical emergencies and must be treated in hospital. If your child/you are experiencing signs or symptoms of a malfunctioning shunt it is important to follow the normal procedure and go to A&E. This NHS guide explains when and how to use different healthcare services during the coronavirus outbreak. And this guide for parents is designed to help make healthcare decisions. Note that where the guide mentions “special healthcare needs and a plan that tells you to go to A&E”, that this includes suspected shunt malfunctions.  
Hospitals are still open, and safely caring for people with conditions other than coronavirus. If you have healthcare concerns which are not life threatening, you should still let the relevant doctor or specialist know.  

High blood pressure & coronavirus 

From our recent adult survey about 30% of our adult members with spina bifida reported having high blood pressure. Evidence suggested that high blood pressure (hypertension) is associated with higher risk of severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This means if you have high blood pressure and you catch coronavirus you’re more likely to become seriously ill than someone with blood pressure within a healthy range. The British Heart Foundation website has some excellent information about the risks. 

You should strictly follow social distancing and hygiene measures, and where possible limit the number of face-to-face interactions you have to reduce your chance of being exposed to virus. You do not need to shield (unless you have been told to). If you are prescribed medication for your blood pressure, it is very important that you keep taking it to keep your blood pressure under control. 

Better health 

Social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing reduce your risk of catching coronavirus but getting as healthy as possible can reduce your risk of developing severe complications if you do catch it. The government has recently launched their Better Health campaign to try and improve the health of the nation and so lower the risk of severe coronavirus. We’ve listed some resources that may be helpful if you’re concerned about your weight, or would like to get fitter:  


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