COVID-19: Weekly testing to be made available for secondary schools and colleges

Weekly rapid coronavirus tests will be available for secondary schools and colleges in England next month, the government has announced.

As part of the initial rollout, all members of staff will be eligible for weekly rapid COVID-19 tests.

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If students are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus, they will be eligible for daily testing for seven days.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the “huge expansion” of testing 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,” he continued.

“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.”

The announcement comes after Greenwich Council in southeast London said it had “no choice” but to tell schools to stay open following threats of legal action from the government.

The council – in similar action to Islington Council in north London and Waltham Forest Council in east London – had urged schools to shut from Monday evening and move to online learning for the rest of the current term, due to rising coronavirus rates in the borough.

Latest government figures show that the proportion of children in state schools in England fell last week.

According to the Department for Education, pupil attendance in secondary schools fell from 81% to 80% on 10 December.

Approximately between 7% and 9% of state school pupils – as many as 694,000 children – were not in school because of COVID-19 related reasons on that day.

Over a quarter (28%) of schools said they had one or more pupils self-isolating who were told to do so due to potential contact with a coronavirus case inside the school, the same proportion as the week before.

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