Secondary schools and colleges to get weekly coronavirus testing

Secondary schools and colleges to get weekly coronavirus testing

Please note this article was published on 17 December 2020 and may be out of date. For the latest information about financial support around Coronavirus, please click here

Lateral flow tests to be deployed to all secondary schools and colleges to help detect asymptomatic cases and break chains of transmission from January

Every secondary school and college in England, as well as special schools and alternative provision, will have access to rapid coronavirus testing from January to help keep staff and students as safe as possible and in education, the government has announced today (15 December).Building on the success of testing pilots in schools and colleges over the past few months, from January all staff in secondary schools and colleges will be eligible for weekly rapid tests as part of an initial rollout.

Students will be eligible for daily testing for seven days if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive. Under current guidelines, up to a whole school bubble has to self-isolate if one student or staff member tests positive. From January, those in the same bubble do not need to self-isolate if they agree to be tested once a day. This will improve attendance and ensure young people can benefit from face-to-face teaching as much as possible.

Staff will also be eligible for daily testing if they are identified as a close contact. Roughly one in three people have the virus without symptoms so could be spreading the disease unknowingly. Asymptomatic testing helps to identify positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission.

Primary schools will then be supported to roll out testing as quickly as possible over the spring term.

Consent will be given in all cases by the staff member, student, or parent as appropriate. Close contacts of positive cases who do not want to participate in daily testing will still be able to self-isolate as is currently the case.

Guidance, training materials and webinars will shortly be made available to secondary schools and colleges so they can start to use the new testing capacity as soon as possible.

The pilots that have taken place in schools and colleges over the autumn term have shown the positive impact regular testing can have in finding asymptomatic cases before they spread and reducing the need to self-isolate amongst staff and students.

The pilots have shown how testing is an additional reassurance and protective measure, on top of the wide range of effective measures schools and colleges already have in place, including increased hygiene, ventilation, and wearing of face coverings in communal areas where appropriate.

Test kits will begin arriving at secondary schools and colleges for the first phase of rollout to staff from the first week of January.

There is no expectation that school and college staff will need to work on this over the Christmas break. Existing staff meetings or inset days can be used for training as appropriate for each individual setting.

Schools and colleges will be provided with the necessary equipment and materials to deliver the testing and will be reimbursed for reasonable administrative costs such as staff time.

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