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Education staff and college students asked to self-test before they return to classrooms this week

Testing measures introduced to ensure children and young people return to classrooms

Education staff and college students are being asked to self-test at home before they return, and were sent home with tests ahead of the Christmas break.

Schools and colleges ordered tests before Christmas and have received these in advance of pupils returning, and will continue to be able to order additional tests through a separate supply route. Schools and colleges made test kits available to pupils before the end of term and they will have access to more as needed.

Students returning to university have also been advised to test before they travel back to campus.

On-site Covid lateral flow tests for pupils returning

All secondary schools have been asked to provide one on-site test for pupils ahead of their return to the classroom this term to help reduce the transmission of Covid-19.

Secondary, college and university students and education staff to then test twice a week

Secondary, college and university students and education staff and early years staff should then continue to test themselves twice a week, and more frequently if they are specifically asked to do so, such as in the event of an outbreak.

Secretary of State urges 12-15 year olds to take up second dose of vaccine

12-15 year olds are encouraged to get fully vaccinated (two doses), to ensure they are protected. 16 and 17 year olds are now eligible for boosters and we strongly encourage them to take up this offer when invited to do so, along with university students.

Nadhim Zahawi, Education Secretary

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said:

“Being in face to face learning is undoubtedly the very best place for children and young people’s education and wellbeing, and my priority remains on keeping early years settings, schools, colleges and universities open so that face-to-face education can continue.

“As we enter this new term, I want to thank all staff working in education for their continued dedication and resilience. It is through the hard work of all of you that we have ensured, and will continue to ensure pupils and students get the learning that they deserve.  We must continue to look forward and not forget how far we have come in our fight against this virus.

“The very best way we can continue to protect ourselves and our families is by getting the booster, or second jab if you are aged 12-15 – as soon as possible. I urge anyone who hasn’t done this to do so now.”

Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove and former Chancellor said

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“We are doing all we can to minimise disruption this virus causes to everyday life, including keeping children in school, and regular testing is a key way to support schools and protect face-to-face teaching.

“Vaccines remain our greatest line of defence so I urge all 12-15 year olds who have not come forward yet to get vaccinated, and all teachers to Get Boosted Now to protect yourself and those around you.”

new Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel De Souza

Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza DBE said:

“Children have told me how much they really value and appreciate school as a place to learn, build friendships and take part in activities that benefit their physical and mental wellbeing.

“As Children’s Commissioner and having run schools all my life, I’m always excited about the start of a new term and the return to school. I am especially focused on this one, as it is so important schools are open and ready to welcome children.

“We are so fortunate to have great teachers and parents who have already done so much to have children back in the classroom, and former teachers happy to volunteer extra support to keep children there. I want our classrooms open and operating because I firmly believe it is where all children belong and want to be. We owe it to them to make sure this happens.”

Proportionate safety measures will also remain in schools, colleges and universities to help reduce the transmission of the virus, including increased ventilation and good hygiene, with older students and staff wearing face coverings.

Staffing pressures

  • We have asked former teachers to sign up to return to the classroom, to combat expected staff absences in the new year arising from the surge in Omicron cases.
  • We are running our Covid workforce fund to cover the costs of schools and colleges with staffing pressures and low financial reserves as a result of the pandemic, to make sure they are able to remain open.

Daily testing

  • All adults who are fully vaccinated and children aged 5-18 years and 6 months, identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19 – whether Omicron or not – should take an LFD test every day for 7 days instead of self-isolating.
  • Daily testing by close contacts will help to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • If schools and other education settings run out of testing kits, they can order more kits through the online ordering platform for education settings or call 119 to request an emergency replenishment if they are going to run out of stock imminently. We continue to work closely with UKHSA to ensure education settings are prioritised and able to receive adequate supplies of testing kits.


  • Feedback from settings suggests that the over 350,000 carbon dioxide monitors that have been delivered are acting as a helpful tool to manage ventilation, sitting alongside the other protective measures in place.
  • For the very few cases of settings that have areas of poor ventilation, where quick fixes to improve ventilation are not possible, we will make up to 7000 air cleaning units available. This is in addition to the 1,000 DfE-funded air cleaning units that we announced on 18 November for SEND and Alternative Provision settings
  • For settings which are not eligible for funded units, the online marketplace provides a route to purchasing air cleaning units directly from suppliers at a suitable specification and competitive price.

All early years settings, schools, colleges, and universities are advised to continue to follow the latest guidance set out by the department which is kept regularly under review.

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