COVID-19 testing for Staff and Pupils
Dear Parent or guardian,
We are working to keep our Balcarras as safe as possible. You may have heard that testing for those without coronavirus symptoms is beginning across the country using new, quicker COVID-19 tests known as ‘lateral flow tests’.
Along with the other protective measures we are taking, these tests will help staff and pupils to remain in school safely. Up to one third of people who have coronavirus experience no symptoms. By testing we will help to stop the virus spread and help to keep our school open as safely as possible. The test is voluntary, but I would encourage everyone to take it.
We will be testing all staff and pupils who want to participate from week commencing 4 January 2021. In order to start testing in this week we need to collect consent over the Christmas holiday.
I attach an instructional leaflet and information about consenting to the test.
Giving Your Consent Years 7-11
- Read the attached information about consent. If you agree with points 1 to 9 then please access the School’s Scopay system to give your consent.
- From Tuesday 22nd December please logon and follow the instructions to register your consent. You need only give your consent once. If you have more than one child at the school we will need separate consents.
Consent Years 12-13
Those over the age of 16 can give their own consent but we would encourage you to discuss this with them. Pupils in the sixth form will be asked for their consent prior to testing.
What to do if you can’t access Scopay
The administration burden of organising this testing so quickly is considerable. Using the Scopay system to give your consent will make the task far easier, so if you can please do use this system. However, if you are unable to use the Scopay system then please do the following instead.
- Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Use the following subject line: Consent for COVID 19 Lateral Flow Testing
- In the body of the email please give your child/childrens’ first name, surname and tutor group and include the following statement: “I have read the attached NHS Test and Trace consent information for COVID-19 testing, and agree to points 1 to 9. I give my consent for my child to receive a lateral flow test at the school.”
Those taking the test will be supervised by trained staff. The ‘lateral flow’ tests are quick and easy using a swab of your nose and throat. Most pupils will carry out the swabbing themselves under staff supervision. Where a pupil is unable to do this a trained member of staff will assist them.
Results (which take around half an hour from testing) will be shared directly with staff and pupils participating. Where participants are under 16, parents or legal guardians will also be informed.
We know these tests work - in validation studies conducted by Oxford University and Public Health England, they were shown to be as accurate in identifying a case as a PCR test (99.68% specificity). The tests have lower sensitivity but they are better at picking up cases when a person has higher viral load, hence the need to test frequently.
Testing will be offered free of charge.
What if a pupil tests positive?
Participating staff and pupils who test positive will be informed about their results individually. Where participants are under 16, parents or legal guardians will also be notified. Guidance on safe travel and additional precautions will be provided along with test results.
Pupils will need to take a further ‘PCR test’ (similar to those done in local and regional testing sites) on the same day (or as soon as possible). Balcarras will be able to provide these PCR test kits to perform at home or you can go to www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or call 119 to book a follow-up test. If ordering a PCR test yourselves, they should choose to visit a drive-through test site if possible, as it is faster than requesting a home test.
During this time while they wait for the PCR result (via text / email) they will need to self-isolate.
If the PCR test returns a positive result you will have to self-isolate and follow the guidance from NHS Test and Trace.
What happens if the test is negative?
They will be able to stay in school and continue their education as normal. A pupil will only be told if they test positive on a ‘lateral flow’ test, so if you do not hear you can assume it was negative. A small number of pupils may need to repeat the test if the first test was invalid or void for some reason.
What if a close contact at school tests positive?
A close contact of someone in school who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be able to return to school if they agree to be tested once a day for 7 days and the test is negative. If they do not want to take the test, they will need to self-isolate as per the national guidelines. This does not apply to household members or close contacts outside of school who will still need to self-isolate. Further details will be provided at the time, but if you would prefer to self-isolate instead of doing daily testing, you can.
What if my child develops symptoms?
This testing programme at Balcarras is for people with no symptoms. If your child develops symptoms at any time (such as a high temperature; a new, continuous cough; or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste) they must immediately self-isolate, and book a test by calling 119 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 0300 303 2713 (Scotland) or visiting https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
We will support our staff and pupils throughout, but please contact us if you have any questions. You can email email@example.com
Balcarras will work hard to establish this system as quickly as we can. We fully support this as an effective way of keeping our community safe. Please keep in mind that at both national and local level these plans are being put together at breakneck speed. We will continue to communicate with you as this scheme takes shape.