Coronavirus testing for schools and colleges from January
Today we have announced that from January teachers and pupils will have access to rapid testing to help keep schools and colleges open throughout the spring term.
From January, and starting with secondary schools, including all special schools and alternative provision, the education workforce will be eligible for weekly on the spot tests. This will help identify asymptomatic cases – which make up a third of all cases – limiting the spread of the virus. This will be backed up by daily testing for staff who have been in close contact with a positive case therefore eliminating the need for self-isolation; allowing them to continue to come into school or college.
Students and pupils will be eligible for daily testing if they have been in close contact with a positive case.
You can read the press notice and a detailed Q&A for parents, but here is a summary of the key details of the announcement:
- Teachers and pupils will have access to rapid testing from January.
- Staff who are in close contact with cases will be eligible for daily testing, eliminating the need for immediate self-isolation. Only if a daily test returns a positive result will the staff member need to isolate.
- Testing will roll out as rapidly as possible from January, starting with staff and moving quickly on to serial testing of students.
- It is the decision of the individual school or college when they would like to begin accessing this new dedicated testing capacity.
What schools have said about testing
Rapid testing builds on the success of testing pilots in schools and colleges over the past few months.
Wye School in Kent took part in the COVID-19 mass testing pilot. Their Principal, Luke Magee, answers questions for senior leaders on the DfE Teacher Blog.
Hamid Patel, CEO of Star Academies, a trust with schools participating in the autumn testing trials, said:
“Testing was arranged to be as unintrusive as possible, and the benefits have been tremendous.
Attendance has improved as fewer close contacts have been required to self-isolate. Parents who may have been wavering have gained confidence to send their children to school, and staff have been reassured by the availability of testing.
Testing has allowed us to refocus on teaching and learning. I am heartened that the scheme is to be rolled out nationally: it is a game-changer for the sector.”
Gerard Garvey, Principal of Newcastle Sixth Form College, a college participating in the autumn testing trials, said:
“Testing at Newcastle Sixth Form College has given all of our students and staff the reassurance that the college is a safe environment for them to work and study.
The testing process is smooth and has minimal impact on teaching and learning.
The daily testing of close contacts has enabled students who would normally have had to self-isolate to continue to attend and enjoy the benefits of face-to-face teaching.”
If you have any further coronavirus (COVID-19) related questions, please contact the DfE helpline on 0800 046 8687 (Mon-Fri, 8am to 6pm and Sat-Sun, 10am to 6pm).
Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
We have updated the guidance for actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to include updated information on Ofsted quality assurance visits in the summer term, 30-hour childcare entitlements in the autumn and the change to days of self-isolation from 14 to 10 days.