Secondary schools to offer COVID-19 tests
You will be aware that from Monday 4 January 2021 schools have been asked to offer COVID-19 tests to all staff and pupils who do not have symptoms of the virus i.e. the recent onset of a new continuous cough and/or high temperature and/or a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia).
In addition to our ongoing COVID-protective measures (social distancing where possible, regular hand washing and wearing of masks in communal areas), we are very keen to continue to test pupils and staff to reduce the need to send large groups of pupils and staff home should they be identified as close contacts, and therefore plan to build on our experience of Gloucestershire County Council’s mass testing pilot at The Royal Agricultural in December which also used Lateral Flow Devices.
From the beginning of January 2021, rapid-result tests will be provided to schools:
- for the school workforce to be tested weekly - this will help identify those who are carrying the virus without displaying symptoms, reducing the risk of transmission;
- for all pupils to be tested twice in the week before they return to school (Year 11 are scheduled to return on Monday 11 January and all pupils in Years 7-10 on Monday 18 January) - this will also help identify those who are carrying the virus without displaying symptoms, reducing the risk of transmission;
- for pupils as well as the members of the school workforce identified as ‘close contacts’ following a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school to be tested daily - this ensures that they do not need to isolate and are able to continue to benefit from high quality, face-to-face education.
For every group, testing is voluntary, but those who are eligible for tests are strongly encouraged to participate to reduce the risk of transmission nationally within schools and colleges.
In line with routine infection control practice, close contacts who decide not to be tested daily will need to self-isolate in line with guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
As stated above, participation in this mass testing programme is entirely voluntary and we will only be testing those pupils whose parents complete and return a formal consent form. Please be aware, this is a changing situation and we are learning as we go. We appeal to you for your patience and understanding.
The decision to ask schools to test staff and pupils twice a week before they return to the classroom and then for us to offer 'serial testing' should there be a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the school was announced on Thursday 17 December 2020, just before we broke up for the Christmas holiday. Consequently, we have been liaising with Gloucestershire County Council’s Public Health team, attending the Department of Education’s webinars and following the national news with great interest.
Following receipt of confirmation of the operating procedures and the training materials on Thursday 31 December 2021, we thought we would share our draft plans with you.
We expect to receive the tests in school on Monday 4 January 2021 and, subject to their arrival and sufficient quantity, we will be implementing a phased plan which will enable us to offer tests to all pupils whose parents want them to be tested before all pupils return to school on Monday 18 January 2021.
On Monday 4 January 2021, during our in-service training day, we will train members of staff to run our test centre on site. In the afternoon, interested staff will be invited to self-swab and they should receive a test result within 30 minutes. We know many staff used the test centre at the RAU regularly during the fortnight it operated and, while still keen to observe our COVID-19 protective measures in school, took comfort in knowing they had tested negative.
We are very grateful to those parents and other members of our school community who have responded to our call for volunteers to help us set up and manage a test centre at Deer Park. They will also receive training as a part of Phase 2.
On Tuesday 5 January 2021, we aim to open our test centre to all pupils in Year 11 for whom we have consent and who can come into school. We have sent parents of pupils in Year 11 an email with a consent form as well as a privacy notice. This will need to be completed and returned before pupils can come into school to be tested. Parents will be able to book a time for their child to have a test through our Parents’ Evening booking system.
Being able to offer tests on site will significantly reduce the time taken away from learning and we will use a similar schedule to those we follow when we work with the NHS to administer routine vaccinations, such as the recent flu vaccine for pupils in Year 7 last term.
It is recommended that people are tested twice a week 3 days apart, so we will initially be operating our test centre for Deer Park pupils in Year 11 and staff on Tuesday 5 and Friday 8 January. We will train more staff and volunteers to increase the number of slots available in the test centre from Monday 11 January.
The government expect us to offer the test to as many of our pupils across all year groups as possible during the first two weeks of the new school term. We appreciate this is a challenge, not least because as a relatively rural comprehensive school, we serve a large area and this may present issues regarding transport. However, we hope parents of our pupils who live locally will be able to see the benefit of the child/ren being tested and take advantage of the invitation to attend our test centre to ensure their child/ren are tested twice before they return to school full time (from Monday 11 January if they are in Year 11 and by Monday 18 January if they are in Years 7-10).
From Monday 11 January 2021 we plan to offer COVID-19 tests to all pupils in other year groups for whom we have consent and who can come into school. Similarly, in preparation for this we will send parents of pupils in Years 7-10 an email next week. Once a consent form has been completed, parents will be able to book an appointment online through our Parents’ Evening booking system and either bring their child/ren up to the school for a self-administered swab test or send them up on their own at the appointed time. By booking a test, parents will be further confirming their consent.
Once all pupils return to school full time from Monday 18 January 2021, we will continue to operate our test centre for staff.
Should we need to, we will offer 'serial testing' to all staff and pupils identified as close contacts following a confirmed case of COVID-19. Any close contacts will be offered a test before school, every day for seven days. Should the results be negative they will be able to remain in school, however, should they receive a positive test they will be asked to self-isolate at home.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if a pupil tests positive?
Participating staff and pupils who test positive will be informed about their results individually. Where participants are under 16, parents or legal guardians will also be notified. Guidance on safe travel and additional precautions will be provided along with test results.
Pupils will need to take a further ‘PCR test’ (similar to those done in local and regional testing sites) on the same day (or as soon as possible). In exceptional circumstances, the school will be able to provide these PCR test kits to perform at home if parents cannot take their child to a test centre. Parents can go to www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or call 119 to book a follow-up test. If ordering a PCR test, parents should choose to visit a drive-through test site if possible, as it is faster than requesting a home test.
During this time while parents and pupils wait for the PCR result (via text/email), they will need to self-isolate.
If the PCR test returns a positive result, the pupil will have to self-isolate and they and their family should follow the guidance from NHS Test and Trace.
What happens if the test is negative?
The pupil will be able to stay in school and resume their activities as normal. A pupil will be told if they test positive or negative on a ‘lateral flow’ test. A small number of pupils may need to repeat the test if the first test was invalid or void for some reason.
What if a close contact at school tests positive?
A close contact of someone in the school who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be able to return to school if they agree to be tested once a day for 7 days and the test is negative. If they do not want to take the test, they will need to self-isolate as per the national guidelines. This does not apply to household members or close contacts outside of school who will still need to self-isolate. Further details will be provided at the time, but if you would prefer to self-isolate instead of doing daily testing, you can.
What if my child develops symptoms?
This testing programme at school is for people with no symptoms. If your child develops symptoms at any time (such as a high temperature; a new, continuous cough; or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste) they must immediately self-isolate, and book a test by calling 119 or visiting www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
We will support our staff and pupils throughout, but please contact us if you need this information in any other language or format or if you have any questions. You can call the office on 01285 653447 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.