Around six in 10,000 lateral flow Covid tests carried out in post-16 institutions in the first week of the full reopening were positive, Tes analysis of Department of Health and Social Care data has revealed.
In a seven-day period beginning 4 March, 359,094 Covid lateral flow tests were conducted in colleges and 16-19 schools in England – an increase of more than 700 per cent on the week before, when 42,848 tests were taken in these institutions.
Background: All students to return from 8 March
Of the tests carried out from 4 March to 10 March, 246 were positive - significantly more than the 36 found the previous week, but only 0.06 per cent of the total number.
In February, the government confirmed that it expected all staff and students to return to college from 8 March, and set out a plan for testing that would see all students and staff receiving four tests within the first two weeks of on-site delivery, and then two weekly after that.
Lateral flow tests in colleges: the data in full
Week 25 February - 3 March
- Overall tests conducted in secondary schools and colleges: 711,879
- Tests conducted in colleges and 16-19 schools: 42,848
- Overall positives in secondary schools and colleges: 396
- Overall positives in colleges and 16-19 schools: 36
- Overall negatives in secondary schools and colleges: 710,263
- Overall negatives in colleges and 16-19 schools: 42,737
- Overall unknown/void in secondary schools and colleges: 1,220
- Overall unknown/void in colleges and 16-19 schools: 75
Week 4 - 10 March
- Overall tests conducted in secondary schools and colleges: 3,733,229
- Tests conducted in colleges and 16-19 schools: 359,094
- Overall positives in secondary schools and colleges: 2,039
- Overall positives in colleges and 16-19 schools; 246
- Overall negatives in secondary schools and colleges: 3,725,655
- Overall negatives in colleges and 16-19 schools: 357,966
- Overall unknown/void in secondary schools and colleges: 5,535
- Overall unknown/void in colleges and 16-19 schools: 882
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Colleges have done fantastic work to test their students and staff in huge numbers to ensure a safe return to face to face teaching. Nobody should underestimate the efforts from staff and students that have gone into making it happen on such a scale.
"Frequent testing will be key to keeping transmission down and preventing bigger, more disruptive outbreaks. Their continued vigilance will keep students, staff and communities safe as we emerge from lockdown.”
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said colleges had been extraordinarily effective and efficient in keeping young people and staff safe and feeling safe.
"They have exceeded all expectations in the volume of tests carried out and this is testament to their ingenuity and dedication. The proportion of positive tests in all the tests that have been carried out may seem small, but 246 students are now isolating that would otherwise not have been. With an R rate still hovering slightly below 1, hundreds and hundreds of cases of Covid have been averted. It has been demanding and difficult work, but well worth it."
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “It is thanks to the hard work of education staff across the country that over five million coronavirus tests were taken over the first days of students’ return to school and college. Rapid testing is vital in our fight against this pandemic. But it only works if we continue to play our part and get tested.
“I urge all parents and carers, education staff, and young people themselves to continue to take up testing where they are eligible, to help keep this virus under control and students in class.”