Colleges to have weekly Covid testing from January

FE staff will be tested weekly for Covid-19 from January 2021, says Department for Education
15th December 2020, 12:10pm
Kate Parker

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Colleges to have weekly Covid testing from January

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/colleges-have-weekly-covid-testing-january
Colleges To Have Weekly Covid Testing From 2021

Every college in England will have access to rapid coronavirus testing from January, the Department of Education has announced. 

Staff will be tested weekly, and both students and staff will be eligible for daily testing for seven days if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive. 

Under current guidelines, up to a whole-school bubble has to self-isolate if one student or staff member tests positive. From January, those in the same bubble do not need to self-isolate if they agree to be tested once a day. 


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Real benefits to education

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "This huge expansion of rapid testing for those working in education is a milestone moment in our work to keep schools and colleges open for all. 

"I know it has taken a phenomenal effort from everyone to ensure approximately 99 per cent of schools have been open each week since the start of term. 

"Testing on this scale brings real benefits to education, it means more children, teachers and staff can stay in their classes in schools and colleges without the need to self-isolate."

Consent will be given in all cases by the staff member, student, or parent as appropriate and close contacts of positive cases who do not want to participate in daily testing will still be able to self-isolate as is currently the case.

In the announcement, the Department for Education said that there is no expectation that college staff will need to work on this over the Christmas break. Existing staff meetings or Inset days can be used for training as appropriate for each individual setting.

Colleges will be provided with the necessary equipment and materials to deliver the testing, and will be reimbursed for reasonable administrative costs such as staff time.

A move in the right direction

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that the move was positive and would be welcomed by colleges.

He said: "Keeping learning happening has been a number-one priority for every college since day one. They have done incredible things to support students and staff with little time and no precedent - including quickly taking learning online. Until a more full roll-out of the vaccine, it is clear that a strong testing, and track and trace, system is the best way that education and training can remain open and operating effectively, which is why we've been calling for regular testing since the summer.

"This is a positive move in the right direction and one that will be welcomed by colleges. As with all things, implementation is key - it is vital that this happens smoothly and quickly, with as little impact on staff workload and learning time as possible."

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: "Our members have worked tirelessly this year to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education delivered in the safest possible environment. Today's announcement is another stage in that journey and we are pleased that staff and students are being prioritised.

"January is already set to be an extremely busy month for colleges and they will need the right support to ensure these tests are administered in the appropriate way. Newcastle Sixth Form College has led the way in piloting the use of rapid testing and has shown what can be achieved when the right support is put in place." 

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