I hope you this letter finds you well and you have managed to enjoy the Christmas break so far.
There is no doubt that 2020 has been an exceptional year, but we are all hopeful that 2021 will see Coronavirus being brought under control with the advancements in both the vaccine and the testing procedures. The government has stated that they would like everyone to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at some point during the new year, with many older and/or vulnerable members of communities already having started in the first wave of vaccinations.
The government has also announced that they want voluntary, rapid testing to delivered in all secondary schools initially, so that:
- all staff will be tested each week
- all students will be tested twice, within five days, at the start of this term
- going forward, all close contacts of positive cases can be tested each day for seven days and so avoiding the need for self-isolation unless they test positive
Despite the huge logistical issues that need to be resolved, I am fully supportive of this idea in principle and it has the potential to have a significant, beneficial impact on staff, students and their families, greatly reducing the number of days anyone would miss due to having to self-isolate. However, we remain frustrated by the limited amount of information we have received so far in emails up to 23 December, leaving us with many practical questions which will need to be answered before we can make the necessary arrangements to administer these tests. The government believes that these obstacles can be overcome with tests starting to be rolled out to those that want them (hopefully the vast majority of staff and students) in the first of week(s) of the new term.
In a large school this process is particularly problematic. In order to test everyone in school once over a three-day period, it has been suggested that we would require 9 testing bays that would need to be staffed by 16 people, working six hours per day, according to the government’s planning tool. Space in school remains a significant challenge, even more so in a Covid context, though with only students in Year 11, 13, those deemed vulnerable and children of key workers returning to school in the first week back, this may help resolve this potential obstacle in the short term.
Given that we haven’t seen the nature of the training, we don’t know when PPE and testing kits will be in school or the requirements for DBS clearance. There are so many questions that remain unanswered and having to plan for this over a period when school is closed is both difficult and disappointing.
I have included the following documents:
- A template letter to parents provided by the DfE. This is for your information only, though I believe the sentence about letting parents know the outcome of the test is incorrect; parents will only be informed if the test is positive.
- a leaflet to explain the testing process
- a single sheet to be returned which combines the registration and consent forms, if you wish your child to be tested at the start of term. The form can also be viewed on the Edulink app. Parental consent is not required for anyone over 16, though the registration form needs to be completed.
Are you able to spare some time to assist with Covid testing?
In light of the increased workforce requirements, we are seeking volunteers to support us with this process. Are you able to volunteer to help out for a morning or afternoon testing session on any particular day of the week? We envisage a morning session running from 8.45am to 11.45am and the afternoon session from 11.45pm to 2.45pm. Please email email@example.com with your availability and a contact number.
If you are happy for your child to be tested, you will need to return the combined consent and registration form to firstname.lastname@example.org, as soon as possible, using the email address we hold for you in school (please use Edulink to check this). Alternatively, you can print a copy of this and return it on the day of testing via your child or paper copies will be available on the day if you are bringing your child in for the test. Further details on this will follow.
I regret I cannot provide any more detail at this time and for the short notice, but I hope you understand that this is a rapidly moving issue, which I am sure will gather pace over the coming week. I will write to you again next week once more information is made available to us.
If you have any urgent questions, please feel free to email me