WATCH: Inside school's rapid Covid testing hall
- Credit: Westley Middle School
Welcome to Westley Middle School's new rapid coronavirus testing operation - which aims to become a key ingredient in keeping children safe, while in education as much as possible.
Although schools are currently closed to all children except those of key workers under national lockdown restrictions, the government announced that all secondary schools will be given access to rapid coronavirus tests from January.
The aim is that close contacts of infectious people will be offered daily tests instead of self-isolating for 10 days, so they can reduce school absence - although they will have to stay at home if they do test positive for Covid, of course.
Secondary, middle and special schools across the Unity Schools Partnership have now begun testing for staff and those students still attending in person.
Westley Middle School, in Bury St Edmunds, has produced a video to help parents understand the process.
It shows headteacher Ben Jeffrey taking a test.
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“We felt it was important to show parents and students our testing procedures and what to expect," he said.
"Obviously we will not be testing as many students as we initially expected, but the testing facility is now up and running for staff and students still attending the school building at this time.
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“It has been a challenging few weeks and the determination and commitment of my staff, in organising in-school testing and now a comprehensive home schooling package, has been nothing short of fantastic.”
More than 5,000 parents across the Unity Schools Partnership have been asked to give consent for their children to be test, with 99% agreeing.
Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership, said: “Our schools had worked incredibly hard to put themselves in a position to begin testing this week.
“While the lockdown has placed a greater emphasis on home schooling, all our schools remain open for keyworker families and vulnerable children.
“It has never been more important in this period of anxiety for us to work together and it is amazing to see school leaders, staff, parents and trade unions work together in their determination to start a new testing programme from scratch.
“I applaud Westley Middle School and all our schools for working so hard to have in-school testing up and running during these challenging times.”