Revealed: Plans for rapid-result Covid testing of students before returning to York schools

YORK secondary school students will be offered rapid-result coronavirus tests before they return to the classroom as part of city-wide plans.

A letter to Huntington School parents and carers, written by headteacher John Tomsett, has been published on the school’s website today (Saturday), which includes what he says is a statement from Public Health York and the local authority.

The statement explains that, in York, the plan being developed to support secondary schools, their staff and pupils, will involve the offer of testing from two dedicated school testing sites at the University of York and York St John University.

It also confirms that, during the week beginning January 4, on-site contact testing areas will be set up at each secondary school, which “should help to reduce the need for whole bubbles to self-isolate.”

The statement says: “Following the announcement on December 30 delaying the full opening of secondary schools, the City of York Council’s public health and education teams are working with the York Schools and Academies Board to develop plans to offer Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) for staff and pupils to support the phased return to school from January 11. Whilst testing remains optional, the Department for Education has made it clear that there is an expectation that all secondary schools should promote and encourage LFT.”

It says the York St John site will be open only for children in exam year groups (Year 11 and Year 13) from January 4 to 7. This will support their return to school from January 11. Both testing sites will be open for all secondary aged children from January 8 to support the full return to school from January 18.

Parents/carers can book a time for a test using the following link: https://www.york.gov.uk/SymptomFreeCOVIDTest

Bookings can be made for the York St John site using this link from January 2, while bookings will open for the University of York site from January 8, the statement says.

Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or carer when they visit the university testing sites.

They will be required to attend the testing centre twice in a period of three to five days prior to their return to school and the results of the tests will be shared with the child’s school.

The statement says: “If a child tests positive they will be required to take a PCR test (the type of test that people have been taking up until now to confirm or otherwise whether they have got Covid 19) and to self-isolate until the result of the test is known. If the PCR test is negative the child will be able to attend school from January 11 or 18 depending upon the return date for their year group.”

It says if a child has tested positive in the 90 days prior to January 4 then it is not necessary for them to have a test if they have completed their isolation period and they should not be booked in for a test if they have not completed their 10 day isolation period.

The statement adds: “During week beginning January 4 on-site contact testing areas will be set up at each secondary school.

“From week beginning January 11 these testing areas will provide capacity to test children daily for a period of seven days if they are confirmed contacts of a child who has had a positive Covid test.

“This should help to reduce the need for whole bubbles to self-isolate so preventing further disruption to the children’s education.

“The tests are optional and require consent to be obtained before being administered.”

It says school staff will also be provided with testing kits by their school to allow them to take a twice weekly test.

The tests for children will be supervised by public health trained staff and members of school staff will be asked to use self-administered tests, the statement says.

If a child or member of staff has a positive result from a LFT they will be asked to take a PCR test to confirm the positive result.

Children/staff testing positive will then be required to self-isolate for 10 days.

The school will contact the parents/carers of close contacts and will offer them the opportunity to have a daily test in school or to self-isolate if they do not want to be tested.

“The co-ordinated city approach to testing will ensure that schools are supported to make testing available to all staff and pupils from January 4,” the statement says.

“The use of the two central testing sites will allow all secondary age children who want to have a test to have been tested prior to their return to school.”

Mr Tomsett commented: “I urge all our students to take two Lateral Flow Tests which are available from Monday, using the city-wide facility that Public Health York and the local authority have set up.

“I have nothing but thanks for what the city’s Public Health Team, the local authority, our two universities and the York Schools and Academies Board have set up in an incredibly short space of time.

“An important thing to note is that, whilst I urge children to be tested, if children have not been tested, they may still come back to school on the arranged date for their year group.”

York Press | News