Quick swab tests are being introduced to North Yorkshire schools to allow teaching staff and secondary pupils to receive regular, voluntary tests for coronavirus.
The tests are designed to allow staff teaching in primary and secondary schools, colleges and maintained nurseries to test themselves regularly for covid twice a week.
Young people in Year 7 and above will also be able to receive the tests before returning to school.
Primary schools and maintained nurseries in North Yorkshire have been provided with the lateral flow devices in order to begin their testing regime and allow staff to test themselves at home twice a week, using the kits which provide results within 30 minutes.
Secondary schools have begun their testing regimes, providing tests for children of key workers and vulnerable students in school, as well as teachers in school.
Rapid testing is designed to limit the spread of the virus by helping identify asymptomatic cases. Almost a third of all cases of coronavirus include people without symptoms.
The tests will be in addition to existing safety measures already in place in schools, such as teaching children in bubbles, good ventilation, social distancing and frequent hand washing.
Each school has its own detailed risk assessment which is regularly updated and takes into account each school’s unique circumstances such as building layouts and pupil numbers.
Tests are voluntary for adults and young people and no child or young person will be tested without informed consent from the appropriate adult or carer.
Pupils will not be prevented from receiving face-to-face education if they are not tested.
Amanda Newbold, the county council’s assistant director for education and skills said: “These tests are voluntary, but they are designed to provide an added protection for pupils, staff and their families, in addition to the safety measures put in place in every school in North Yorkshire.”
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s director of public health, said: “These tests are an additional means for schools to continue their work in keeping pupils and staff safe.
“We know a third of all coronavirus cases involve people who are asymptomatic, so these tests should provide extra reassurance to staff, pupils and their families.”
The county council says it has been supporting schools and other education settings in North Yorkshire to introduce the tests, providing HR advice covering volunteer testers and staffing considerations, as well as advice and support on disposing of the tests, transport home for anyone who receives a positive test while at school, Public Health and legal advice and advice on health and safety.
The council will also match up schools who do not have enough staff to carry out the testing with volunteers and will also help those lacking a space suitable for testing find a suitable, alternative site for testing.
Amanda Newbold added: “We are in close contact with schools and maintained nurseries in North Yorkshire offering support and advice to help schools introduce this testing regime.
“We are also holding online drop-in information sessions for all schools and maintained nurseries to help address any issues or answer questions early on. We would like to thank schools for their co-operation on this issue.”