New campaign backed by Olympian urges secondary school pupils to get regular Covid tests during autumn term

Gold medal winning swimmer Matt Richards and TV doctor Ranj Singh are telling children to get Covid tested at school

Returning secondary school pupils are being urged to get tested – and vaccinated where possible – to stop Covid spreading and minimise disruption to lessons over the autumn term.

Ministers are launching a campaign, backed by an Olympic champion and a TV doctor, to persuade parents, secondary school and college students to take part in voluntary asymptomatic Covid testing.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • ‘Attendance advisers’ are being recruited to work with local authorities and multi-academy trusts where absence rates are higher than average
  • An expert advising the government warned that music festivals and schools returning will lead to a “significant surge” in Covid infections
  • Unions have called for more action to ensure schools are kept as safe as possible and education is not disrupted further
  • Children will no longer have to isolate if they come into contact with a positive case. Instead, they will need to get a PCR test and isolate only if positive
  • Schools received guidance in July setting out the measures they should implement from September, including maintaining increased hygiene and ventilation, but year group “bubbles” and face coverings have been removed
Dr Ranj Singh and Matt Richards are backing a new government campaign for children to regularly test for Covid in the new school term (image: Getty)

What’s been said

The campaign has been endorsed by 18-year-old swimmer Matthew Richards, who won a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and NHS consultant paediatrician and TV presenter Dr Ranj Singh.

Mr Richards told students: “Make sure you test before you go back, and twice weekly – even if you don’t have symptoms – so you can get back to the things you love like competitive sports and school matches.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I have every confidence that school and college staff, parents and students will continue to work together admirably, following pragmatic measures like testing and vaccinations to minimise disruption and keep children where they belong – in the classroom.”

Background

Department for Education (DfE) guidance states that secondary school and college pupils in England should be tested twice on-site on their return, with lateral flow tests carried out between three and five days apart.

Pupils should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when the policy will be reviewed.

Pupils began returning to school in Leicestershire this week, with most pupils in England set to head back to class over the next fortnight.

All students in Northern Ireland have now returned to school with the country’s vaccination programme extended to 12 to 15-year-old’s on August 12 with more than 50,000 eligible children signing up for the jab in the first day.

Schools in Scotland returned last week after the summer break and is believed to have fuelled the country’s sudden spike in Covid cases.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned she could not rule out reimposing Covid restrictions as the number of new daily cases hit the highest level ever.

The Welsh Government has asked that parents test their children for Covid at least twice a week regardless of whether they have symptoms or not once the new academic year starts in September.

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