Managing Lateral Flow Testing in Schools
In December 2020, the UK government Covid-19 lateral flow testing in schools of its staff and pupils to support the national effort to reduce cases of infections.
Following this announcement, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Testing on this scale brings real benefits to education. It means more children, teachers and staff can stay in schools and colleges without the need to self-isolate.”
On the 22nd of February 2021, as part of his roadmap to easing restrictions, Boris Johnson informed the country that all schools will fully open on the 8th of March.
The question is do schools, colleges and universities have the capacity and expertise to conduct the lateral flow testing both in the short and long terms?
This will undoubtedly put additional pressure on schools and their staff who really should be focussing on helping their students and indeed staff settle back into school life and dedicate their time to what they do best, delivering an outstanding education to our children.
The DfE provided the following example from a school who have implemented asymptomatic testing successfully to demonstrate how schools might manage it.
Lateral Flow Testing at Castle Hill High School
Castle Hill High School in Stockport is a secondary special school with 300 pupils on roll. The school caters for a range of SEN, including moderate learning difficulties, autism, social, emotional and mental health difficulties, and severe learning difficulties.
They have implemented asymptomatic testing successfully. This involved:
- identifying a medium-sized room to be used exclusively for testing
- the head and deputy head doing the online training
- a team of 4 non-teaching members of staff volunteering to create a dedicated team to deliver the testing system for pupils – they received initial training from the head and deputy head followed by the online training modules
- one member of the team doing the paperwork, one collecting each pupil when their time is ready to be tested and ensuring they are registered, one demonstrating to the pupil how to do the test or assisting the pupil with the test and the final member of the team doing the test analysis and recording
- the deputy head overseeing the testing
In short, the above example takes up the time of 4 members of staff, which whilst admirable my not be feasible as a long-term solution.
What help/support is there for schools?
There’s a new Lateral Flow Testing Support Service on offer form our close partner NexusProtect, the security and data protection specialists. They are working in partnership with SSGC to deliver additional testing personnel to support school & colleges.
Managing Director of NexusProtect, Nick Holden commented, ‘Teachers and support staff are already under huge strain to try to safeguard staff and pupils’ education. Working with SSGC, we can offer a scalable solution to schools which will provide mass testing, along with an ongoing facility for further tests in-line with Government requirements whilst ensuring compliance with data protection law. To date more than 50 schools and colleges have signed up to this new service and I would urge any school or college that feel they need this type of support to contact us sooner rather than later to ensure a smooth return to school.’
SSGC has already deployed over 5,000 of its staff to support the National Testing Program to over 200 Covid-19 Testing Centres across the UK and conducted more than 5 million tests. They have now evolved this expertise, and working with NexusProtect, are able to offer a Lateral Flow Testing service to schools and colleges across the country.
If you feel that your school or college could benefit from support with mass testing please get in touch with Nick, places and time to implement are limited so please don’t delay.