Secondary schools expected to test returning pupils three times on site

School covid outbreaks have increased and cases of the Indian variant have grown.

Secondary schools will be expected to test returning pupils on site three times when they reopen, the government has said.

Ahead of Boris Johnson’s announcement on school reopening this afternoon, the Department for Education has confirmed arrangements for asymptomatic testing of pupils and staff.

All schools are expected to reopen to all pupils on March 8. Operational guidance for schools states they will have “flexibility to consider how best to deliver testing” but vulnerable children, children of critical workers and those in years 10 to 13 should be prioritised

The department has said pupils returning to secondary schools will be tested three times on site and then once at home in the first two weeks back – 3-5 days apart.

After that, they will be expected to be tested twice weekly at home and report results to NHS Test and Trace, as well as to their schools to record. Secondary schools will also be expected to retain a “small” testing site for those unable to test at home.

Secondary pupils will be allowed to attend lessons as normal after their first negative result, while pupils not undergoing the voluntary testing should “attend school in line with your phased return arrangements”.

Secondary staff will also get twice weekly home tests.

There will be no tests for primary school pupils, though staff will continue to have to test themselves at home twice a week.

Schools will receive additional testing kits for both on-site and home testing in the coming weeks.

Additional guidance will be published for testing in specialist settings but current guidelines state the DfE recognises “that self-swabbing may cause significant concerts for some children and young people with SEND”.

Testing is voluntary and no child or young person will be tested unless “informed consent has been given”, but participation is “strongly encouraged”.

Testing of close contacts in order to keep them in school is not expected to return at this time. The approach was paused last month after questions were raised about the effectiveness of lateral-flow devices.

This means that close contacts of confirmed cases will still be required to self-isolate.

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