Schools to get rapid Covid tests to help cut student absence
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All secondary schools will be given access to rapid coronavirus tests from January to help reduce pupil absence, it has been announced.
Earlier this month, figures from Suffolk County Council showed that more than 900 pupils were self-isolating as of the beginning of December.
Children are forced into isolation for 10 days if they have been in close contact with somebody in their "bubble" at school.
A "close contact" is defined as being with less than a metre for a minute or more, or within less than two metres for 15mins or more.
During self-isolation, students are given materials to continue their learning online at home.
Yet teachers have warned that, however good e-learning materials provided by schools are, they are no substitute for being in school.
Now, the Department for Education has said all secondary schools and colleges will be eligible for weekly rapid tests from January.
Daily testing will also be offered to those identified as being in close contact with an infectious person for a period of seven days.
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Those who agree to the daily testing will not need to isolate, unless they test positive.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "This huge expansion of rapid testing for those working in education is a milestone moment in our work to keep schools and colleges open for all.
"I know it has taken a phenomenal effort from everyone to ensure approximately 99% of schools have been open each week since the start of term.
"Testing on this scale brings real benefits to education, it means more children, teachers and staff can stay in their classes in schools and colleges without the need to self-isolate."
Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock also welcomed the news, writing on Twitter: "Thanks to our mammoth national effort to create the largest testing capacity in Europe, we're able to expand our mass-testing to further suppress the virus."
Test kits will begin arriving at secondary schools and colleges for the first phase of rollout to staff from the first week of January.