Essex students are being ‘strongly advised’ to have Covid tests before returning to school

TEACHERS are putting arrangements in place for pupils to take part in asymptomatic coronavirus tests as part of the latest Government guidance.

With a phased return to the classroom for secondary school and college pupils set to start from Monday, teachers are deciding how they fulfil this guidance.

The Government has stated secondary schools and colleges should offer three rapid Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) to pupils as they return to on-site education and that the return of secondary-age pupils can be flexible to allow for this to take place.

However, it is down to each provision to choose how it will fulfil this guidance and there are two options for schools and colleges to use.

The options

  • They have the option of offering all three tests on site and flexibility in terms of how they organise pupil’s phased return from Monday.
  • Alternatively, Essex County Council (ECC) has put in place increased community testing capacity so pupils could take the first of these three LFTs in advance of their return to school or college.

If schools decide to use this option, the second and third tests would then need to be taken on the school site three to five days apart.

Community testing would be carried out at one of the existing rapid testing centres across Essex.

Parents and carers will be sent specific instructions from their child’s school or college about what they need to do.

Testing is voluntary and will not be done unless a parent of young person themselves (if over 18) has given consent.

But, it is something that is being strongly encourage so that potential transmission of the virus within the school community is reduced.

If they are taking part in testing, pupils can return to face-to-face education following their first negative test result.

Once these three initial tests have been carried out, pupils will be provided with rapid tests to be carried out twice a week at home.

If they test positive, they will need to self-isolate immediately.

The Department for Education is now also recommending secondary-age pupils should wear face coverings in classrooms – they are already required to wear them when moving around school buildings.

Primary schools 

For primary school children, on site attendance at school will be mandatory from Monday.

Public Health England advice states there is no requirement for primary age pupils to be tested for Covid before returning.

This is because there are limited public health benefits attached to testing primary pupils in terms of stopping the spread of Covid-19 and younger children are less likely to catch the virus.

Primary school pupils are also not required to wear a face covering at school.

Ray Gooding, ECC’s cabinet member for education, said: “We know how eager schools and colleges are to see children and young people back in the classroom. By increasing our community rapid testing capacity, schools will have greater flexibility in terms of how they are able to fulfil the Government guidance.

Dr Mike Gogarty, ECC’s director of public health, said: “We strongly advise parents of secondary-age children to get their children tested.

“By using our network of rapid testing centres, they can do so before children return to the classroom safe in the knowledge that they free of the virus.”

Echo | News