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Schools set up mass coronavirus testing stations

All ready for coronavirus testing at Arnewood School in New Milton
All ready for coronavirus testing at Arnewood School in New Milton

MASS Covid-19 testing stations have been set up as schools across the New Forest and Christchurch prepare to welcome pupils back on Monday.

The reopening of schools and colleges for a return to face-to-face education is part of the first of four steps in the government’s roadmap out of the current nationwide lockdown in place on 4th January.

Although not compulsory, coronavirus testing is strongly encouraged for secondary school-aged children and college students.

Teams of volunteers, including school admin staff and parents, will man on-site stations as they set out to conduct an initial programme of three tests.

Pupils and students, as well as secondary school and college staff, will then be provided with twice-weekly rapid home tests.

Staff and students in secondary schools and colleges are also advised to wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained.

This is a temporary measure due to be reviewed at Easter.

Priestlands School in Lymington has had a system in place all term for testing staff, children of key workers and vulnerable pupils.

Lateral flow tests are being offered to all students the day before they return. After that, they will be able to take two further tests in school over the first fortnight to boost confidence in the process.

Head teacher Peter Main told the A&T: “It is a big logistical operation but thanks to staff and parent volunteers we have a team trained and ready to deliver lateral flow testing for all students.

“I am pleased to say we have been provided with all the equipment we need and we have an excellent, safe system in place.

“If it helps to keep everyone in school safe and means students can return then this makes it worth doing.”

At New Milton’s Arnewood School, tests on pupils will be carried out on a staggered basis, with the aim that all will be back in class from Thursday.

The facility in Gore Road was confident it could complete the estimated 3,500 tests required before home testing begins.

Its team of community and parent volunteers have undergone online and on-site training to carry out the necessary procedures, aided by supplies from the government, including personal protective equipment (PPE).

Head teacher Nigel Pressnell said: “We have been routinely testing the students and staff in our support school since January.

“Students quickly become used to the processes which have been overseen by school staff and a dedicated group of approximately 20 volunteers, mostly parents.

“This is a massive logistical undertaking and I am extremely grateful to those who have contributed to the team effort so that we can get students back into education as safely and quickly as possible.”

The government has deemed masks and asymptomatic testing unnecessary for primary schoolchildren due to low levels of transmission among younger ages. But those with symptoms still need to come forward, and staff will continue taking twice-weekly rapid home tests.

Private, voluntary and independent nursery staff will be offered twice-weekly home tests, expanding on that already available to maintained nursery schools and school-based nurseries.

Wraparound childcare for primary and secondary pupils will also resume where necessary to enable parents to access work, education or medical care.

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