Army to help schools set up extra Covid testing sites

The Army is to be deployed to help schools plan for the rollout of mass Covid testing in the new year
17th December 2020, 4:27pm
John Roberts

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Army to help schools set up extra Covid testing sites

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/army-help-schools-set-extra-covid-testing-sites
Coronavirus: The Army Is To Help Schools With Mass Covid Testing In January

The Army is being drafted in to help secondary schools set up a major Covid testing regime in the new year, it was revealed today.

The Department for Education has announced that all secondary schools will be able to test more of their staff and their students from the first week of January.

It has also confirmed that secondary schools will be going back in a staggered start, with the majority of year groups learning online in the first week of term.


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The government has said that guidance is being provided to schools and colleges on how to set up testing sites and that armed forces personnel will support planning.

Coronavirus: Mass testing in schools

The DfE has announced this extra testing today on top of the existing plan to allow every secondary school to test staff once a week.

It had already said that schools would be given equipment to ensure that all secondary school teachers and staff will be tested weekly, and any staff or students who come into contact with a Covid case can receive a daily test for seven days.

Unions have already voiced concerns about whether schools have the capacity to deliver the government's plans to run mass Covid testing, with one leading headteacher saying it would turn schools into "field hospitals".

Guidance sent to schools this week says they will need to train staff and appoint people to seven different roles as part of their testing regime.

Today the government has outlined how schools and colleges will be able to offer students two rapid tests three days apart, with positive results confirmed by a lab-based PCR test.

It has also acknowledged that people in schools could currently be spreading Covid without knowing.

It said the extra tests "will also help to tackle the one in three who have the virus but do not have symptoms, so could be spreading the disease unknowingly".

The DfE also said it would "minimise disruption during the spring term" by helping to identify positive cases when pupils return to face-to-face education following the Christmas break.

Students attending face-to-face education in the first week of term will be offered the first testing dates.

Testing will be optional but strongly encouraged, particularly in areas of higher prevalence of the virus.

And schools will need to get consent from the student or parent as appropriate, the department said.

Students who receive positive test results will be required to self-isolate in line with existing guidance.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: "Testing in schools is crucial for us to break the chains of transmission and keep students, staff and their loved ones safe. That's why we're supporting schools and colleges in England to offer testing at the start of January.

"Rapid testing is a reliable and effective way to identify people without symptoms that we otherwise wouldn't know about. By doing this we can help schools and colleges open safely after the Christmas break and ensure there is minimal disruption to our children's education."

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