Schools race to complete testing for pupils' return on first day back
- Credit: Simon Parkin
Norfolk schools are in the midst of a mammoth mass testing programme in a bid for all pupils to be back in lessons on the first day of reopening.
All of Norfolk's primary schools are on track to reopen to all pupils from Monday, and secondary schools, where testing of students is being introduced for the first time, are racing to fully reopen.
Education bosses say they are confident all Norfolk's schools are ready to welcome all children back to the classroom from next week.
Secondary pupils are required to be given three initial tests at school or college before moving to home testing.
Many schools hope to fully complete the first of the tests this week to ensure that all pupils can be back on March 8.
Old Buckenham High School, part of the Sapientia Education Trust, is amongst those that will see all its 529 pupils back in classes following in-school testing by appointment for those currently learning at home.
Headteacher Andrew Fell said: “What we wanted was to make sure Monday was a full day of school because the kids have already had lots of disruption.
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“We decided to begin testing on Wednesday and we have had a lot of uptake on our app which means that we don’t have to stagger the start from Monday onwards and all the students will be back from Monday.”
The school has used an app for pupils to book appointments with a one-way system for parents to pick them up afterwards.
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“A lot of the reason we have done it this way is to give them confidence because a lot of the young people haven’t been in school for weeks and are anxious about the test,” said Mr Fell.
“We have been able to explain what is happening, what to expect and we thought it better to do it this way so we can have those conversations with those who are anxious about sticking things up your nose and throat.”
Returning students will notice some changes as in their absence the school has improved sports facilities with all-weather pitches, redecorated classrooms and added new roofs, veranda and landscaping in outdoor areas.
Teaching will again be grouped into year bubbles, with one-way systems, social distancing guidelines, hand sanitisers and extra cleaning, as well as face masks in lessons.
“The trust has a policy, which we had before Christmas, of face coverings in lessons and in enclosed areas, so we are used to that and it isn’t new for us,” said Mr Fell.
“There are some students who are anxious about it and there are some exceptions, both in terms of mental health and medical reasons, but the vast majority of students and parents are supportive.
“It’s not about individual safety, it’s about collective safety.”
While Old Buckenham is a small school, those that are larger are also hopefully of completing all initial Covid tests earlier next week.
Springwood High School in King's Lynn has already carried out more than 1,500 tests with just two positive asymptomatic cases being identified. Those students will be in isolation, along with their families, for 10 days.
“We have acted this early and decisively because after so much disruption, we want the return to school-based education to be as quick and smooth as possible, for everyone’s benefit,” said executive headteacher Andy Johnson.
“Springwood is a large school so we grasped the opportunity to start early, and the response from everyone involved has been fantastic.
“Attendance for booked tests among pupils was 100 percent. In-school testing will be finished by Tuesday, the day after school resumes.”
Mr Fell said after a year of disruption it was important for every pupil to be back as soon as possible because “every day matters”.
“This week is about getting this technical stuff out of the way and then getting back into what school is about,” he said. “Back into the rhythms of school life and also see children seeing friends again because that is an important part of school.”