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Rapid result coronavirus testing for schools in Stoke-on-Trent

Published: Wednesday, 9th December 2020

More rapid lateral flow testing has been made available in schools across Stoke-on-Trent following a successful ‘train the trainer initiative’.

The initiative will help to keep pupils in the classroom and control outbreaks in the run up to Christmas.

The training has been underway during the past two weeks and 10 schools have already taken up the initiative. It sees staff trained on how to administer tests within their own schools so that they can test colleagues and students safely and quickly, with tests and clinical and operational guidance provided by NHS Test and Trace.

Being able to administer rapid lateral flow tests within schools means confirmed cases can be identified really early in those who are not showing any of the classic symptoms of coronavirus so they and any close contacts can be sent home to self-isolate and reduce transmission. Being able to do regular repeat testing means that more staff and pupils will be able to stay in school.

Added benefits of the testing include being able to undertake the tests onsite without the need for a lab to process results and results being available in under 30 minutes.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown said: “Testing is vital in our defence against coronavirus and being able to roll out this initiative into schools is hugely important. It allows them to become self-sufficient with testing and allows staff and students to be assured that the school environment is safe. It helps to keep children in school learning and means that schools can continue to function with staff confident to come to work. 

“While a vaccine has started to be rolled out, it’s going to take some time before life gets back to normal. Rolling out the train the trainer initiative so we can do more rapid lateral flow testing in schools is a crucial part of our strategy to maintain continuity for school staff, pupils and families and ensure that education can continue in the face of this dreadful virus. It’s a key part of us working to kick coronavirus out of Stoke-on-Trent.”  

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “We are urging schools to take up this opportunity. School absence as a result of coronavirus is reducing but some children, through no fault of their own, have had to spend several days at home when this can now hopefully be avoided through the additional train the trainer initiative. It can give schools, parents and students peace of mind. It also allows us to test more asymptomatic people across the city.” 

Simon French, Chief Executive of the Alpha Academies Trust which runs a number of schools across Stoke-on-Trent and who have been through the train the trainer initiative said: “We are exploring ways of working with Stoke-on-Trent City Council in how we can introduce Lateral flow testing within our academies.

“It seems to be a very fast and efficient way to identify those positive cases and to reduce transmission.” 

Michelle Johnstone, executive headteacher for St Mark’s CE Primary School and Etruscan Primary School has also been involved in the train the trainer initiative for schools which has been underway in recent days. She said: “Being able to get lateral flow rapid testing into our school will be incredibly helpful and opens up a number of opportunities to us to keep staff working and children in school. We’re waiting for some final equipment to come to us from Government and as soon as we have that we’ll be looking to regularly test our senior leadership team alongside some of our other teaching staff – 16 in total – every Wednesday. If that works, we’ll be looking at how this can be extended more widely across our schools.

“The support from the city council has been incredibly helpful – we’ve had additional help when we’ve had staff test positive or have to self-isolate and we were keen to be part of this initiative to help keep our schools open for our children to be able to learn. It is incredible useful to be able to have this flexibility onsite and to be able to get the results so quickly.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: “NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against COVID-19 with over 43 million tests processed so far.

“The work of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and local schools in Stoke-on-Trent will be essential in helping us explore the benefits of new technology in lateral flow testing.

“This pilot is one of many which will lay the foundations for the next phase of NHS Test and Trace – mass testing - which will allow us to test even more people, even more quickly.”

For the latest information on council services and support during the coronavirus, and frequently asked questions, please visit www.stoke.gov.uk/coronavirus. For latest health advice on the coronavirus, please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus, and for further information on the virus visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Residents can book a rapid lateral flow test at:

www.stoke.gov.uk/bookacovid19test 

All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. If residents have symptoms, please get tested. All residents must continue to follow the guidance of wash hands, cover face and make space.

www.stoke.gov.uk/news

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