Students attending secondary school, college and special schools will be provided with quick swab tests in school before they fully return to the classroom.
BMJ studies have shown that rapid flow test detect just 48.89% of Covid-19 infections in asymptomatic people when compared with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – data from the Liverpool pilot.
Primary schools will reopen to all children from 8 March, while students attending secondary and special schools and colleges will have a staggered return over that week to allow students to be tested at least once for coronavirus. Some secondary schools may begin testing prior to 8 March.
After three initial onsite tests, it is anticipated that students in Year 7 and above will be provided with home testing kits for coronavirus tests to be carried out at home twice a week. Further Government guidance is expected on this.
The quick swab tests are voluntary and no young person will be tested without informed consent from their parent or carer. The swab tests are designed to limit the spread of the virus by helping identify asymptomatic cases.
Younger, primary-aged pupils will not be tested, but primary and secondary school staff will be provided with kits to carry out twice weekly coronavirus tests at home.
Stuart Carlton, Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services said:
We really welcome the news that pupils can return to school from 8 March.
For secondary school pupils, it will be a phased return the week of March 8 because there is the expectation that schools will test all pupils at least once before they return to school. How, and when, that happens depends on several factors and will vary depending on the size of the school, the different available spaces for testing and the transport arrangements they have for getting children in and out of school for the tests.
Children and young people will not be given the coronavirus swab tests without the consent of their parents or carers. They are voluntary, and pupils will not be prevented from receiving face-to-face education if they are not tested, but the tests should provide families, pupils and staff with added reassurance as students return to school.
Parents will hear from their school over the coming days about the date that their child can return to school and schools will prioritise children in terms of vulnerable pupils, children of critical workers and then year groups. But all children should be back at school by 15 March at the very latest.
Schools in North Yorkshire have been carrying out lateral flow swab testing since January term for secondary aged students who have continued to attend school either due to their parents being key workers, or because they are vulnerable students
By 8 March, each school in North Yorkshire will have updated its own detailed risk assessments based on the most recent Government guidance. The risk assessments are regularly updated and takes into account each school’s unique circumstances such as building layouts and pupil numbers.
The rapid swab tests are in addition to existing measures already in place in schools, such as teaching children in bubbles, good ventilation, social distancing and frequent handwashing.
New Government guidance also recommends that students of secondary school-age and above wear face coverings in lessons, as well as communal spaces, but this will not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example PE lessons.
The Government will be reviewing this guidance, along with other measures, at Easter.
Home to school transport will also resume on 8 March, with schools making their own individual arrangements for transporting students into school for swab testing. Wrap-around care – in the form of after-school and before-school clubs – are also expected to resume, with schools in talks with providers about resuming the childcare.