Coronavirus testing for schools and colleges from January

Today we have announced that teachers and students will have access to rapid testing to help keep schools and colleges open throughout the spring term.

From January, starting with secondary schools and 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 and allowing them to continue to come into school or college.

Students will be eligible for daily testing if they have been in close contact with a positive case.

Key information

You can read the press notice and the guidance on GOV.UK.

Below is a summary of the key details of the announcement:

  • Weekly rapid tests will be available to all secondary school and college staff from January.
  • Staff and students who are close contacts of cases will be eligible for daily testing, preventing the need for immediate self-isolation. Only if a daily test returns a positive result will the staff member need to isolate.
  • Test kits will begin arriving at secondary schools and colleges for the first phase of rollout to staff from the first week of January.

There is no expectation that school and 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.

We have published a Q&A to answer some of your questions.

What other schools have said

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 testing pilot. Their Principal, Luke Magee, answers questions for senior leaders on the DfE Teaching 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.”

Coronavirus helpline: Christmas opening hours

After 24 December, the Department for Education coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline will close for the bank holidays, and have shortened opening hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Opening hours:

24 December – 8am to 4pm

25 to 28 December – Closed

29 to 30 December – 8am to 6pm

31 December – 9am to 4pm

1 January – Closed

2 to 3 January – 10am to 6pm

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