A leaked plan for the re-opening of schools lists a measure to provide two COVID tests a week, to school children who have returned to education
The Times’ Henry Zeffman talks us through some documents that contain Government plans for how to test the population over the summer months. He explains the plan for schools, and how the immediate future could look.
Lateral flow tests to become a household staple
This includes 400,000 rapid lateral flow test, which will be a regular fixture in homes and workplaces throughout the country. These will theoretically be posted across to people every day. In addition, around 68% of England’s population will be on a list of those able to request repeat rapid tests.
With schools set to re-open on 8 March, if data continues to support this decision, one of the key revelations from Zeffmans’ scoop is that school children will be offered two COVID tests a week when they go back.
This includes teachers and parents. Some parents are continuing not to send their children to school, despite their vulnerable status, due to the fear of bringing COVID-19 into their homes.
In Shanghai, researchers created a mathematical model predicting the best time for schools to open.
On the 22 February, PM Boris Johnson is set to announce how the lockdown will lift. This is lauded as the final lockdown, as vaccination begins to make a significant difference to COVID stats.
Fatality stats have fallen by 62% among over-80s, since 24 January, 2021, according to data analysis by The Guardian.
In December 2020, the Government announced that schools would experience a return in Spring 2021. At that time, a coalition of teaching unions commented: “All our organisations are supportive of the concept of the use of lateral flow tests in schools. Many of our organisations have been actively calling for such tests for some time.”
However, they go on to point out that infrastructure must be built by the Government for two COVID tests a week to be plausible.
It would be “inoperable for most schools and colleges” to create their own testing workforce, when focus is on bringing children back up to speed with their learning and development while protecting them.
Will key exams be going ahead?
Currently, GCSES and A-levels are not expected to go ahead in 2021. Teachers will be estimating their students grades, in an effort to maintain a flow of students progressing in their studies.
The exam scenario of 2020, which resulted in a “postcode lottery” style estimation of grades was widely critiqued by parents, students, teachers and policymakers.
Teachers remain concerned about the education divide that is widening, as a result of digital access and home environments influencing capacity to learn.
The mass testing programme will then be expanded to cover large and small businesses, with the hope that they can begin to operate again.
Speaking to Zeffman, an unnamed minister said: “The vaccination program is going better than we could have hoped, but testing is the key to getting the economy going again.”