Parents urged not to opt children out of school Covid testing

The initial rollout of secondary school and college coronavirus testing will begin from the first week of January.

The initial rollout of secondary school and college coronavirus testing will begin from the first week of January. - Credit: PA

Parents will be “strongly encouraged” to allow their children to take part in Covid testing when secondary schools and colleges return after the Christmas break. 

All students and staff will be eligible for free weekly rapid tests as part of an initial rollout from the first week of January.

Students and staff who receive positive test results will be required to self-isolate, those negative will still have to...

Students and staff who receive positive test results will be required to self-isolate, those negative will still have to follow guidelines including face masks. - Credit: PA

Test kits will begin arriving for the first phase of rollout from the first week of the new term with the return of students staggered between January 4 and 11 to help schools cope.

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

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

Claire Reed-Finch with daughter Holly is due to start year 11 at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton.

Claire Reed-Finch with daughter Holly who attends Smithdon High School in Hunstanton and has already received a letter about being tested. - Credit: Claire Reed-Finch

Claire Reed-Finch, whose daughter Holly attends Smithdon High School in Hunstanton, where Year 11 pupils return on January 5 with other years starting a week later, said she had already received a letter asking her to take a test.

“The only reservation I have is that she starts back at school on January 5 so it is unlikely we will have the test kit by then.

“Asymptomatic students could potentially be returning to school and mixing with other students and staff before knowing the results.”

Richard Newby, whose son attends school in Norwich, said: “I think testing in schools is long overdue and I’m happy for him to take part. 

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“My worry is the late notice again and that schools will struggle to implement such a big thing at short notice. It could end up becoming another farce.”

Primary schools will be supported to roll out testing “as quickly as possible” over the spring term, the DfE has said.

Primary schools will be supported to roll out testing “as quickly as possible” over the spring term, the DfE has said. - Credit: PA

The rapid lateral flow swab tests produce a result in 30 minutes and do not require a laboratory to process. Those testing positive  will be required to self-isolate in line with existing guidance.

Anyone showing coronavirus symptoms but having a negative result will still be required to self-isolate until the result from a second lab-based test is known.

Schools minister Nick Gibb. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Schools minister Nick Gibb.  - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the tests will be administered by volunteers and agency staff and details will be published next week.

However fears that some schools and colleges may not be ready has seen teachers' unions and the National Governance Association, representing school governors, argue that those unable to set up mass testing for the first week of January should not be forced to.

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