From education to employment

Rollout of rapid testing in secondary schools and colleges begins on Monday

Covid Test

@BorisJohnson announced new national restrictions on 4th Jan which now include the closure of school and college buildings, except to the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

The new plans from the government will see primary school, secondary school and college buildings closed for the majority of pupils until mid February, while also confirming that not all exams will go ahead as planned in the summer.

The staggered return of students and the rollout of rapid testing both begin from Monday 04 January, ramping up over the first three weeks of term.

The combination of the staggered return and rollout of rapid testing will help reduce cases of the virus.

Combined with existing protective measures schools and colleges will be well-placed to reduce the risk from the virus when most students return to classrooms on 18 January – which remains the best place for young people’s development and wellbeing.

One in three people who have the virus do not show symptoms, so by offering students two tests, three to five days apart, the chance of finding asymptomatic cases is increased. This programme will help break chains of transmission and reduce the spread of the virus both in schools and in the wider community.

Once secondary and college students are back in the classroom, daily testing will be available to students and staff who are close contacts of those who test positive, reducing the need for whole bubbles to self-isolate, unless they themselves test positive. Positive cases are highly likely to be captured by the lateral flow devices, as testing is repeated every weekday for seven days. Weekly testing will be available for staff.

There remains no evidence younger children transmit the virus – including the new variant – as much as adults, which is why 85% of primary schools will open for face-to-face education for the start of term next week. There will be a review of areas subject to the contingency framework for education before 18 January, covering primaries, secondaries and colleges.

Primary staff will benefit from the ambitious wider rollout of weekly testing in the second half of January, as well as daily testing if they have been a close contact of a confirmed case.

Oasis Trust will be piloting their approach to testing over the second week of term in three of their schools in London and Bristol. A spokesperson will be available for comment and filming, primarily in London. Please contact the DfE press office to arrange.

John Murphy, CEO of Oasis Trust said:

“The children and young people who attend the Oasis family of 52 academies have faced significant disruption to their teaching and learning this year. Meanwhile, our staff have time and again had to overcome huge challenges to do their very best for the students they passionately care about.

“What we know for sure is that our young people make the best progress with quality first teaching, with their teachers, in the classroom with their friends. Therefore, once effectively delivered, we are assured that mass testing in schools will provide additional confidence to our children, parents, teachers and staff, and has the potential to greatly reduce disruption to learning, alongside our existing Covid controls.

“In January we will be piloting the testing in a number of our schools before implementing this to all our secondary academies across the country.”

Newcastle Sixth Form College will begin testing staff from Tuesday 05 January.

Gerard Garvey, Principal at Newcastle Sixth Form College said:

“Setting up for large-scale testing at short notice was challenging, but well worth the effort as we recognised the benefits that close contact testing could have in reducing the number of students and teachers who were out of college self-isolating.

“We plan to continue daily testing as soon as we have staff and/or students back in college and hope to continue this for as long as COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to the education of young people.

“Successful testing in schools and colleges does place demands on both staff and resources, but our whole college community supported this. It has not disrupted teaching and learning and is enabling as many of students as possible to continue to receive face to face teaching.”

Detailed timeline

In the first week of term secondary schools and colleges will:

  • Receive their first ‘starter’ deliveries of up to 1000 test kits on Monday 04 January, with further replenishment deliveries throughout the week
  • Focus their resources on preparing to deliver testing, using the extensive guidance already available and that will continue to be published by the department in the coming days:
    • A ‘handbook’ with an overview of everything they need to know about logistics, training and oversight of the testing process
    • A ‘how to guide’ that walks them through the detailed mechanics of setting up a test site and administering the testing
    • A tool that provides them with an estimate of the number of people they will need to run the test site, and the funding they will receive – enough to cover their staff costs even if they pay all staff and have no volunteers
    • Comprehensive online training modules for each ‘role’ that is required to administer the testing
    • Leaflets, posters, signage and other communications materials to engage their workforce, students and parents
    • Regular webinars running through all guidance material and answering questions
  • Where they are having difficulties, they should contact the DfE helpline, who can escalate support where necessary
  • The 1,500 military personnel will provide virtual training advice and guidance on establishing the testing process with teams on standby to provide in-person support if required
  • Offer testing to staff and students that are on site where possible
  • Prioritise providing remote education to exam year groups in line with what they would receive in class
  • Teach vulnerable and critical worker children on site

In the second week of term they will:

  • Test staff and students that are on site as soon as possible – if not already done in the first week of term
  • Test exam year groups as soon as possible, and allow them to return to face to face education following testing
  • Provide remote education to all other year groups
  • Offer testing to other year groups

In the third week of term they will:

  • Welcome most students back for face to face education, except in areas subject to the contingency framework for education, announced in advance
  • Continue the testing process to make sure students have each received two rapid tests, three days apart
  • Offer weekly rapid tests to staff for the rest of term
  • Offer seven days of rapid tests to close contacts of confirmed positive cases, meaning self-isolation is only needed if a close contact themself tests positive

Related Articles