Secondary schools and colleges to get rapid Covid-19 tests from January

Every secondary school and college in England will be given access to rapid coronavirus tests from January, the Government has announced.

Students will not need to self-isolate if another student or staff member tests positive in their “bubble” if they agree to be tested once a day in the new year, the Department for Education (DfE) has said.

It is hoped the change in guidance will improve attendance and ensure young people can benefit from face-to-face teaching as much as possible.

All staff in secondary schools and colleges will be eligible for weekly rapid tests as part of an initial rollout, but they will also be offered daily testing if they are identified as a close contact.

The move comes as the latest figures from the DfE show that pupil attendance fell last week.

Approximately between 7% and 9% of state school pupils – up to 694,000 children – did not attend school for Covid-19-related reasons on Thursday.

Three in five (60%) of secondary schools reported they had one or more pupils self-isolating who were told to do so due to potential contact with a Covid-19 case inside the school.

Under current guidelines, up to a whole school bubble has to self-isolate if one student or staff member tests positive.

But from January, students will be eligible for daily testing for seven days if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

Those in the same bubble will not need to self-isolate if they agree to be tested once a day.

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.”

Test kits will begin arriving at secondary schools and colleges for the first phase of rollout to staff from the first week of January.

Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies, an academy trust with schools participating in the autumn testing trials, said: “Attendance has improved as fewer close contacts have been required to self-isolate.

“Parents who may have been wavering have gained confidence to send their children to school, and staff have been reassured by the availability of testing.”