Coronavirus testing to begin in North Yorkshire schools after restart

Classroom file pic.

Coronavirus testing will begin in North Yorkshire schools when they restart in January, education chiefs say.

Schools will have the option of setting up coronavirus testing, providing free covid-19 tests to staff and students from the first week of the new term.

Officials say the testing will help to identify those who have the virus, but do not have symptoms and to minimise disruption during the spring term.

The provision of coronavirus testing in schools is optional and down to individual schools on whether they take part.

The return to school will be staggered for secondary schools.

Secondary schools and colleges in North Yorkshire will provide lessons remotely during the first week of term, with face-to-face education beginning on January 11.

Students in exam year groups – Years 11 and 13 – as well as vulnerable children and children of critical workers will be attending school or college in person from the start of term.

Students attending special schools or pupil referral services will also return as usual, from January 4.

Vocational exams scheduled for the first week of term will also go ahead as planned.

The county council’s children and young people’s services have been in close contact with schools since the Government announcement on Thursday last week and are preparing a webinar to take place with all their secondary and special schools on January 4, which will cover the latest Government announcements on coronavirus testing within schools, as well as the staggered return to school.

Amanda Newbold, assistant director of education and skills, said: “We have managed to maintain good attendance at our schools throughout the pandemic, with the number of pupils attending schools consistently above the national average.

“It’s vitally important that we keep children and young people in education.

“By doing so we are avoiding any detrimental impact on pupils’ wellbeing and social development and making sure they don’t miss out on opportunities later in life.

“Schools have put in a great deal of hard work over the past months to put in place robust risk assessments and safety measures to ensure schools remain safe places for children to be.

“The staggered return to school being introduced nationally in January, along with the option of offering coronavirus testing in school will add to this work.”

Officials say North Yorkshire’s schools have had arrangements in place for several months to allow teaching to take place online, as part of their response to the pandemic and this will be used for those affected year groups during the first week of term.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education and skills, said: “We would like to thank parents, pupils, school staff and the many others for all their hard work in ensuring schools stayed open and safe.

“It has been a difficult year and we should be cautiously optimistic that the new year will see schools and education will see a gradual return to normality.”

Amanda Newbold added: “Our school staff have worked so hard to get children back to school this September and put in a great deal of time and effort to put in place risk assessments and covid-secure measures to ensure schools are safe places to be.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all school staff for their efforts.

“It has been a challenging year with very few opportunities for rests or breaks for staff and we hope they all get the rest they deserve over Christmas.”