Secondary school-aged pupils are being encouraged to continue testing for covid with their home testing kits, as all year groups have now fully returned to the classroom.
The vast majority of secondary-age students have been taking part in onsite lateral flow tests for coronavirus in their schools over the past two weeks, to enable a staggered return to face-to-face teaching until March 15.
As this week of schooling begins, all schools and colleges in the county will have carried out three onsite lateral flow tests and all year groups will be back in fulltime lessons.
Students and staff have been given home testing kits so they can continue the rapid swab testing twice a week at home, before coming into school. If a test carried out at home gives a positive result, then a follow-up PCR test will need to be booked to confirm the result.
The quick swab tests are voluntary, but are designed to limit the spread of the virus by helping identify asymptomatic cases. Almost a third of all positive coronavirus cases involve people who have no symptoms. Schools will retain a small onsite provision for any pupils who want to continue to take part on the testing but who would find it difficult to take tests at home.
Public Health Consultant at North Yorkshire County Council, Dr Victoria Turner, said: “The lateral flow tests are an additional means for schools to continue their work in keeping schools safe and to provide extra reassurance to staff, pupils and their families.
“Regular testing is one of the many measures put in place within schools, including extra hand washing, ventilation and the use of bubbles which are designed to protect pupils and their families.”
North Yorkshire’s Assistant Director for Education and Skills, Amanda Newbold, said: “We’re very pleased to say that the vast majority of school-age children in North Yorkshire are now back in school, accessing learning and taking another step towards returning to normal life.
“The feedback we’ve been receiving from headteachers and colleagues in primary and secondary schools is that children are very happy to be back in school, with their classmates and teachers. Teaching staff are also very pleased to have all children back in their classrooms.
“Schools are now spending time trying to understand where pupils are in their learning and making sure the recovery curriculum is effective.
“It has been a huge operation to organise the testing of every student in schools, colleges and special schools in the county and it has allowed a smooth transition from remote learning to class-based teaching. We’d like to thank schools, colleges and children and young people for the part they have played in the lateral flow testing and encourage them to keep up the good work and keep testing at home.”
Students at Malton School, in Ryedale, are among those to have finished their onsite rapid swab tests in school and have now moved to home testing.
Sixth former, Hannah, said: “It’s been great to go back to school and see teachers and friends again.
“I’ve taken part in three coronavirus tests now and it’s been absolutely fine. It’s nothing at all to worry about. It’s important for us to do, because we don’t know who is asymptomatic.
“I think carrying on the testing over spring and summer will be very important, but at the same time you also need to be self-aware around other people and keep with social distancing and washing your hands.”
Evan, also a sixth former at Malton School said: “It’s really great to be back at school finally, to see all my friends again after the long lockdown, to catch up with everybody and see the teachers again.
“I think it is really important everyone continues to get tests, so we can get on top of coronavirus and get on top of testing and know who’s asymptomatic.
“There’s nothing to be worried about. It takes just a few seconds and then you know you are safe.”
Testing kits for asymptomatic home testing are also available for parents and carers; people offering childcare to pupils; those in a support bubble of primary and secondary school-age children and early year providers.
The kits are available through your employer if they are offering testing, at a local test site, by collecting a home test kit from a test site, or mobile distribution unit, or by ordering a home test kit online.