Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease and in-person learning starts again, the reality of Covid-19 mass of testing staff and students is with us. This requires FE Colleges, and Independent Training Providers to have the IT, processes and systems to manage Covid-19 testing.

One practical approach is to use software specially developed to automate Covid-19 Consent, Testing Management and Workflow.

Consenting is not as simple as it looks

If your college has students under the age of 18 getting consent looks easy to begin with, and most colleges simply set up an online form inviting parents to fill it in. However, it’s more complex because it is health data which as to be protected.

Another complication is the range of people involved: under 18 students, staff, self-consenting students, and siblings. Staff members may have children in the same college, or have child of theirs undertaking apprenticeship training. How many records is that, how can you keep track if it’s a teacher or trainer consenting for their child or herself?

You want a system that allows for all that complexity, with a full audit trail, yet simple to use.

Automating Testing Management

The Department of Education mentions using spreadsheets for keeping track of consents and results but this will quickly become challenge as spreadsheets have many limitations. To minimise issues, make sure all communications are secure and students testing positive are followed up consistently.

A good system will help you to

  • Capture the right information first time
  • Make it simple to link the barcode to a person
  • When the result is ready, use the barcode to look up the person and then add the results (this can also be done via bulk upload)
  • Allow for a variety of situations: by an administrator doing it for everyone, by people doing it themselves after testing, or entering their results remotely

Also, it would save a lot of time not having to re-enter details into Track and Trace and to automate reporting …while of course prioritising teaching. All of this will concern your IT Manager who should be on the lookout for quick and cheap to implement solutions.

There is lots to do when you get when you get the test results

Negative results are simple, you may want to give a person a record of it, and this can be simply printed from your system.

Void results are also easy: you can either repeat the test there and then or you can mark the person needing further testing at selected date:

Positive results need a lot of action:

  • You need to inform the person (or parent)
  • You need to find who has been close to the person and record your decision for them to be needing further testing
  • You need to make the person who tested positive that they are now in isolation and making a note of when they are due back and marking them for further testing

Is an automated system helpful?

While some automation is useful, too much of it may complicate things.

Will it do all the steps for me with a single click? There is a good reason for not trying to do too much: Behind every case there is a unique person. Most will follow the steps above, but sometimes you might need to do things slightly differently. You want to make sure you have the flexibility to record your actions and decisions, but you need to decide. Who needs to be tested? When do they need to be tested? We cannot help you there, but once you have decided, you need to make sure recording and retrieving this information is easy.

What about recording your results with NHS Test & Trace?

We hope that you will soon be able to import this file into NHS Test & Trace. In the meantime you can prepare a system/database where data can be extracted easily.

Workload management and reporting

These are just some examples of reports you’d want to see:

  • How your work is progressing
  • Who hasn’t sent in a consent
  • Whose results are waiting to be entered
  • You need a list of people who need to be tested next on a particular day.

It needs to be in one place, not in multiple lists.

Recording and managing tests results in colleges or independent training provider is simple, with a system already optimised for processing and reporting a large volume of highly standardisation actions combined with flexibility in configuration. However, if you start with a generic tool, such as a spreadsheet, you’re likely to run into trouble.


Marta Kalas is co-founder of Thomson Screening, developers of the SchoolScreener Covid Manager for schools. Developed with support from Innovate UK. The application is online and does away with Excel spreadsheets (data exports through CSV files or API) and the software automates all the links in the chain from parent consent, through Covid 19 Test data management (direct from the bar code reader) workflow, reporting to parents, automatically producing heat maps for each school and anonymised reporting is available to Public Health and other agencies, per the latest Government guidance.

Thomson Screening’s SchoolScreener products are widely used in the NHS for managing school delivered and area wide management of Health Needs Assessments, Immunisation programmes, Vision and Hearing Screening and the National Child Management Programme. The Innovate UK grant enables Thomson Screening to utilise investments made in the core functionality of the company’s products to rapidly repurpose and deploy the software.

By Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening

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