All you need to know about Covid-19 testing in Suffolk's schools as all pupils prepare to return and volunteers on hand to help ease pressure on teaching staff
Volunteers are on standby to help Suffolk schools test their pupils next week – and school governors and exam invigilators have put themselves forward to help ease the pressure on teaching staff.
In his roadmap for easing the Covid-19 lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed all pupils will return to schools from March 8 and pupils at secondary schools are encouraged to test themselves twice a week.
A pilot project was held three weeks ago in Ipswich and Wigan for the Department for Education, with helpers from Volunteering Matters going into nine schools to try out testing pupils.
Adrian Orr, assistant director of education and learning at Suffolk County Council, said: “Schools have put good systems in place.
“We have got an arrangement in place that if a school two weeks in starts to have staffing issues around the lateral flow testing, we will try and draw some more trained volunteers in.”
He added: “We have got an ongoing relationship with Volunteering Matters. The purpose of the pilot was to model the volunteering arrangements so it can be rolled out across the country.
“We had a catch up with Volunteering Matters last week, and they are on standby next week if a school or setting needs assistance, we have got a mechanism where we can access that assistance.
“Schools have been really creative and used some of their own staff. I am aware of schools using non-teaching staff – some are using exam invigilators who haven’t had any work. Schools have wanted to use the extended workforce across the school community.”
Cabinet member for education, Mary Evans said: “I am aware of school governors doing it as well who have stepped up and trained.
“They are saying that this is something that is happening in our schools, we are governors, we can take the pressure off the teaching staff, work with the non-teaching staff and get this done.”
The county council has confirmed that Public Health teams are also ready if any problems arise.
Where can you get the tests from?
Suffolk County Council said that for secondary pupils who are being encouraged to test themselves twice a week, test kits will be given out at school to take home.
While primary school pupils are not required to test twice a week, family members of primary pupils can, and again tests will be distributed from the schools themselves.
Parents displaying symptoms should request a home test kit or PCR test kit, rather than a lateral flow test.
Pupil referral units and special educational needs schools will also receive deliveries of test kits to dish out to children.
Mrs Evans said it was therefore important parents were aware in case “they get stuck at the bottom of school bags” and forgotten.
How do I use the testing kits?
Taking a lateral flow test involves taking a sample from the back of the throat near the tonsils and from the nose using a swab.
The swab is dipped into an extraction solution before being dripped onto a device’s paper pad, producing the reaction that gives a result.
What if my child is showing symptoms?
Children showing any Covid symptoms will still be required to take a PCR test, which has higher accuracy, at one of the testing centres throughout Suffolk, or request one to be delivered to their home.
Family members who show symptoms will also be required to do this.
Are there concerns about pupils testing themselves correctly?
“If children and even adolescents see adults being a bit stressed about this it will have that impact on them,” Mr Orr said.
“There was a lot of prep done for this over Christmas, particularly with secondary. There is a sense that we were all set to do this, let’s just get back on track.”
Mrs Evans added: “That is the point of having tests before secondary schools start. They are used to it, this is what you have to do, they have got used to it. We have volunteers who have some skills in doing it and then they learn to do it.”