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Asymptomatic testing in schools and colleges - FAQs
WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT IMPLEMENTING THIS PROGRAMME OF TESTING?
Q. What are the objectives of the Government’s asymptomatic testing strategy in education settings?
By testing we will help to break the chains of transmission of coronavirus. The rapid testing programme in secondary schools and colleges will help to identify asymptomatic positive cases. Those who test positive will then self-isolate, helping to keep other pupils and students in face-to-face education.
Q. Why are you doing one-off testing in the beginning of January?
This testing programme is designed to test as many secondary school and college students possible as they resume education in January to identify asymptomatic cases.
Rapid testing and self-isolation of positive cases will avoid individuals carrying the infection unknowingly and potentially spreading it in the school/college setting or the wider community. It will also support effectiveness of the broader coronavirus testing programme that the Government is putting in place.
Q. Why is asymptomatic rapid testing being introduced now?
One in three people have the virus without symptoms (they are asymptomatic) so could be spreading the disease unknowingly. New technology that allows for rapid testing means that we can now introduce initial testing of staff and students who may be asymptomatic, then daily testing for staff or students who are identified as contacts. Testing for people who are identified as contacts of positive cases will also mean that they do not need to isolate and can stay in face-to-face education.
This is a significant development that will help to identify positive cases more quickly, break the chains of transmission and reduce the disruption that so many schools, colleges and students have experienced in recent months. Schools and colleges will continue to put in place a range of protective measures to minimise the risk of infection spread and weekly testing for staff will also increase their confidence in the workplace.
Children and young people that fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable group should continue to follow the guidance provided at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-Protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19
Q. What is the Government’s asymptomatic testing strategy in education settings?
One in three people have the virus without symptoms (they are asymptomatic) so could be transmitting the virus unknowingly. That is why the testing of asymptomatic people can support education settings. Identifying positive cases will help break the chains of transmission. Testing programme will involve secondary school and FE pupils and students initially receiving two LFD tests.
Q. When will schools and colleges be expected to deliver rapid asymptomatic testing to pupils, students, and staff?
Schools and colleges will be open from 4th January to receive deliveries of lateral flow device (LFD) test kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from 4th January and will prepare for the roll out of mass testing in their education settings.
From the week of 4th January, the testing of all secondary school age students and pupils should start for vulnerable children or children of critical workers educated onsite. This will involve two LFD tests, taken at the education setting, 3-5 days apart.
The workforce will be tested weekly. Students, pupils and members of the workforce who have been identified as a close contact of a positive case within the education setting will undertake serial/ daily testing. This will allow them to continue to come into the education setting provided they test negative each day.
Q. Are schools and colleges still expected to deliver one-off testing, and when is this happening?
The expectation is that all secondary schools and colleges will use the week of the 4th of January to prepare for mass testing. From the 11th of January, two rapid tests will be available to all students to identify asymptomatic cases.
Rapidly identifying and containing any asymptomatic cases will prevent individuals from carrying the infection unknowingly and potentially spreading it in the local community. It will also support the effectiveness of the broader coronavirus testing programme that the government is putting in place.
Q. How will the one-off testing work?
From the week of 4th January, the testing of all secondary school age students and pupils should start for vulnerable children or children of critical workers educated onsite. This will involve two LFD tests, taken at the education setting, 3-5 days apart. The LFDs supplied do not require laboratory processing and can provide a quick result in up to an hour.
Individuals testing positive will need to self-isolate in line with the stay-at-home guidance for households for those with a possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The student, pupil or staff member should then take a confirmatory PCR test to validate the positive result. Additional PCR tests will be sent to schools and colleges for issuing to any individual that receives a positive test, to support swift access to a confirmatory test.
Testing is not mandatory and any student or pupil who does not wish to take the two LFD tests at the start of spring term will not need to produce a negative test result, or provide proof of having taken a test, to return to face-to-face education on the 18th of January.
However, testing is strongly encouraged.
Q. How accurate is a lateral flow device test?
Lateral flow tests are very accurate, which means that only a very small proportion of people who do not have coronavirus will receive a positive result (false positive). If you test positive on a lateral flow test, it is likely that you are infectious at that moment. By using the lateral flow test we can identify people with a high viral load who are the most likely to spread the virus further.
Those who receive a negative test result from an LFD test must still follow social distancing guidance, wear face coverings when appropriate and wash their hands regularly.
Q. My school is all-through. Should I test my primary-aged pupils too?
No, the mass testing programme is prioritising secondary age pupils and students in schools and colleges; test kits and PPE will be provided on this basis. Further announcements will be made for testing other age groups in due course.
Q. Who will be doing the testing in schools and colleges?
In most cases, pupils will self-swab in order to provide a test sample. There are a number of related roles in the testing process, which are set out in published guidance.
Staff in schools and colleges will need to support the testing programme. The remaining testing workforce may need to be made up of volunteers and agency staff. If a school or college is experiencing difficulties putting testing arrangements in place, further support may be requested under exceptional circumstances to address logistical and planning issues. Schools and colleges will not be guaranteed this provision - educational settings will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. All secondary schools, colleges and independent special schools will be eligible for additional funding for workforce support. All other independent schools will not be eligible.
Q. Will the existing testing service remain open?
The Government’s normal testing service for symptomatic individuals will continue. This is the foundation of our testing strategy. It is the most effective way to know if you are positive and need to self-isolate. If you have symptoms, you should continue to book a test via https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ or by calling 119 in England and Wales, or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Q How will you avoid a stigma on those who choose not to take part or who test positive in school/college in front of their peers?
Test results should be communicated to students/pupils and staff in private wherever possible.
Q. Can my family get tested too?
No, this testing is aimed at staff and pupils/students in schools and colleges with the goal of keeping schools and colleges open and students in face-face education.
Family members of staff and pupils/students taking part are not eligible. If family members experience COVID-19 symptoms, they must follow standard government guidance, including self-isolating immediately and booking a test through nhs.coronavirus or by calling 119 (England and Wales).
Q. Why should I (the pupil/student/staff member) get tested if I (the pupil/student/staff member) have (has) no symptoms?
Lateral flow tests are designed to detect the level of virus in individuals who do not experience and show any symptoms, but who could still be infectious and pass the virus to others. By taking a test, you will help to stop the spread of the virus, protect other people, and save lives.
Q. Why would I (the pupil/student/staff member) take the test?
If positive, I will have to self-isolate. Why would I take the risk? Lateral flow tests are designed to detect the level of virus in individuals who do not experience and show any symptoms, but who could still be infectious and pass the virus to others. By taking a test, you will help to stop the spread of the virus, protect other people, and save lives. This will also mean that staff can continue going to work, schools and colleges can avoid unnecessary staff shortages, and pupils and students can continue in face-to-face education with their peers.
Q. What happens if a school cannot get the consent and the child turns up to school?
Participation in the programme requires active consent from the person being tested, or, if they are under 16, their parent or /legal guardian. Any staff member, student, or pupil who does not take part in testing will still be able to attend school or college unless they develop symptoms or have been in close contact with a positive result. People who decline to participate in daily/serial contact testing will follow the usual national guidelines and must self-isolate for ten days
Q. Do you need consent to process the personal data required for testing?
Secondary schools and colleges will need to satisfy themselves that they have a lawful basis for processing personal data. The duties prescribed in education legislation for secondary schools and FE institutions require them to plan for safeguarding needs and promote pupils, and students' welfare may provide sufficient legal basis without having to rely on consent. Schools and colleges will provide staff, pupils and parents with a privacy notice explaining what personal data is required to participate in the programme.
Q. Will volunteers require a DBS check?
Schools and colleges must comply with their legal duties regarding pre-appointment checks when utilising agency staff, contractors, and volunteers to support testing.
Usually, if you are involved in the testing procedure, or if you are at any time with children unsupervised, then you will require a DBS check. If you are volunteering but not assisting with swabbing (for instance, if you are already trained to provide support for a child who cannot self-administer), and you will not be unsupervised with children/ young people at any time, then you will not need a DBS check.
It is essential that agency staff, contractors and volunteers are appropriately supported and given appropriate roles. The school or college should minimise the mixing of volunteers, agency staff and contractors across groups, and they should remain 2 metres from pupils and staff where possible.
Q. Can you say more about what military support will be available and how they will assist?
The nature of support will depend on the requirements of individual secondary schools and colleges. 1,500 military personnel have been committed to supporting schools and colleges. They will remain on task, providing virtual training and advice on establishing the testing process, with teams on standby to provide in-person support if required by schools and colleges. Schools and colleges can request this additional help through the DfE helpline.
Some military personnel will provide remote support to schools and colleges with strategic planning, assisting with practical elements of delivering mass testing. This support may include answering questions about setting up and running a mass testing site for a large school. In other cases, the Department intends to provide ‘on the ground’ military support to schools and colleges to assist with setting up testing sites where testing would otherwise not be able to go ahead. Schools and colleges can request this additional help through the DfE Helpline.
Further Information for Covid-Related Absences
My child is currently self-isolating, but they are asymptomatic and able to complete school work. Can they access remote learning provision?
Yes, they can access the full range of lessons on their timetable through Google Classroom. Work will be set for each lesson and assessment tasks will be completed and feedback given in the same way as if they had been in the lessons. Where practicable, they will be able to join the lessons through Google Meet and interact with their class teacher. However, there is likely to be a delay of up to two working days before this provision can be put in place, as teachers will need time to build remote provision into their lesson planning. The Head of Year will coordinate with the class teachers and will let you know the point from which remote learning can formally begin. In the meantime, they will be able to complete some work in many lessons by accessing the content posted in Google Classroom.
My child has Covid symptoms and has either had a positive Covid test result, or is waiting for a test result. Can they access remote learning provision?
Yes, but we would rather that they are fully fit before trying to get back to a full timetable of school work. Please let us know when they are fit to work and we will ensure that they are provided with a suitable remote timetable. This may involve a phased return in which they study a smaller range of subjects remotely, prior to a full return to School. There is also likely to be a delay of up to two working days before this provision can be put in place, as teachers will need time to build remote provision into their lesson planning. The Head of Year will coordinate with the class teachers and will let you know the point from which remote learning can formally begin. In the meantime, they will be able to complete some work in many lessons by accessing the content posted in Google Classroom.
My child is absent from school for reasons not related to Covid. Can they access remote learning provision from school?
If the absence is expected to be short-term then we will not provide specific remote learning provision at this stage. However, your child can continue to complete some regular school work, if they are able to do so, and should access the work posted on Google Classroom and check with classmates to catch up with any missed work when they return to school. If the absence is expected to be long-term, then please contact your child’s Head of Year to discuss how the School could best provide support.
CHS Contact Tracing
When the School becomes aware that a child has tested positive for Covid-19 it then considers a number of factors to determine which other pupils will need to be sent home to self isolate. The period of self-isolation will be for a period of 14 days from when the pupil who tested positive first developed symptoms or the day they were tested, if they have not had symptoms.
The main categories that would lead to someone being identified as a ‘contact’ in School are as follows:
direct contact up to 48 hours before the pupil displayed symptoms
Face to face contact with a confirmed case for any length of time, within 1m, including:
being coughed on;
a face to face conversation;
unprotected physical contact (skin to skin);
travel in a small vehicle with a positive case;
travel in a larger vehicle with a positive case such as a school bus;
any exposure within 1 metre for 1 minute or longer;
proximity contact up to 48 hours before the pupil displayed symptoms
Extended close contact (between 1 and 2 metres) for more than 15 minutes, with a confirmed case.
The School is also required to contact the following organisations to inform them of positive test and the steps that the School have taken to minimise the risk of infection:
Greater Manchester Integrated Contact Tracing Hub;
Locality Contact Tracing in Education Lead;
Locality Contact Tracing Single Point(s) of Contact.
The School determines who should self-isolate based on government guidelines in relation to close and direct contact.
The number of pupils required to self-isolate is based on the information the School has at its disposal at a particular point in time. The intention is to minimise disruption to pupils as far as possible, but always to put the safety of our community first. Fulfilling our requirement to update these agencies ensures that our decision-making and procedures are checked and approved by official, external bodies.
To contact the Head: Head@chschool.co.uk
Finance Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
External Relations: email@example.com
Tech Support: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact a member of Teaching Staff directly please log on to Parent Portal and navigate to the School Directory.