The government has asked us to introduce routine testing of staff and students for Covid-19. This will allow us to test those in school during the lockdown, but also to prepare for when students eventually return to school.
Parents have been sent an email, asking for them to give their consent via an online form. Please fill this in, even if your child is not currently in school - so we can be fully prepared for when they are tested before returning. Thank you for your help with this.
What is the testing?
Staff and students will be tested using a validated Lateral Flow Device (LFD).
Up to a third of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms at all and can therefore spread it unknowingly. That is why the testing of people without symptoms is vital. Identifying those individuals will save lives.
Swabbing and processing of these tests will be conducted at a dedicated testing site in the college with results available in around 30 minutes. Students and staff will be supervised and provided with guidance on how to perform the swabbing of their nose and throat.
These tests work. In validation studies conducted by Oxford University and Public Health England, they were shown to be as accurate in identifying a case as a PCR test (99.8% specificity). The tests have lower sensitivity, but they are better at picking up cases when a person has higher viral load, hence the need to test frequently.
When used in combination with other measures such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), washing hands regularly and social distancing, these tests further reduce the risk of transmission. We must not relax any of these measures – this testing programme is in addition to them.
Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test. The devices are designed to be intuitive and require minimal training to operate.
Who is being tested?
We will start with staff and students in school during lockdown. But the plan is for all students to be tested before they return to school.
Participation is voluntary but we strongly urge everyone to participate. This is another important tool for us to use in keeping school as safe as possible.
What happens if someone 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 and staff 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). This can be done via: www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or call 119 to book a follow-up test. If ordering a PCR test yourselves, they should choose to visit a drive-through test site if possible, as it is faster than requesting a home test.
During this time while they wait for the PCR result (via text / email) they will need to self-isolate.
If the PCR test returns a positive result they will have to self-isolate and follow the guidance from NHS Test and Trace.
What happens if the test is negative?
They will be able to stay in school and resume their activities as normal. A small number of people may need to repeat the test if the first test was invalid or void for some reason.
What if a close contact at school/college tests positive?
A close contact of someone in college 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 staff/students develop symptoms?
This testing programme at school is for people with no symptoms. If you develop 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 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 0300 303 2713 (Scotland) or visiting https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.