Portsmouth and Hampshire headteachers hope return of schools from March 8 will mean the end of lockdowns

HEADTEACHERS hope the a testing programme put in place for returning children will prevent the need for for further lockdowns or isolation of large numbers of pupils.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 4:30 pm

Education leaders have been speaking ahead of the return of pupils from March 8 which will see children undertake three lateral flow tests over the next two weeks before pupils and families will be responsible for twice weekly testing at home.

Priory School headteacher Stewart Vaughan opted to carry out a first round of testing this week to help reduce disruption when children return. Year 11 will be tested on Wednesday with Year 9 and 10 and Year 7 and 8 tested on Thursday and Friday respectively.

Mr Vaughan said: ‘This will allow us to welcome back our Year 11 students on Monday with everyone back in lessons from Tuesday. Whilst there will be some disruption in the first week while we carry out tests two and three, we have already been regularly testing our key worker children and our staff are becoming more experienced in this procedure.’

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Priory School headteacher Stewart Vaughan is hopeful when schools reopen it 'will be for good'. Picture: Sarah Standing (131120-8527)

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While Mr Vaughan does have some reservations over home testing he’s confident most families will take the tests and inform the school of any positive cases.

He added: ‘Parents have been overwhelmingly supportive and so far we have had 1,018 consent forms agreeing to take the test. In a school population of 1,200 people there will inevitably be some children and parents who are more anxious about testing at home.

‘The vaccine programme has been magnificent and with the arrival of spring and the scope for more activities outdoors I’m genuinely hopeful this will be the last time we have to lock down and when the children come back they will be back for good.’

The testing area and testing bays at Park Community School.

The Cowplain School has also introduced a staggered start with the first three days used for testing with a full return to classrooms by Wednesday afternoon.

Headteacher Ian Gates hopes for a permanent return but does have concerns and highlighted the disruptive impact of testing ‘20 to 25 pupils every hour during the first two weeks’.

He said: ‘Clearly if you ask members of the public to undertake a test normally carried out under medical conditions there will inevitably be some which aren’t done as carefully.

‘We have also had to build six testing bays and it’s not yet clear if we will get this money back. We have trained our support staff to carry out the test but this inevitably means I’m having to take them out of providing help in classrooms.’

The Cowplain School headteacher Ian Gates believes the government has 'missed an opportunity' by not vaccinating teachers. . Picture: Sarah Standing (180714-4542)

Mr Gates also described the decision not to vaccinate teachers as ‘a missed opportunity’.

He added: ‘The government didn’t listen to the argument if you keep teachers in school then you keep children in school.’

Park Community School headteacher Chris Anders is also running a phased return and is confident this will be the last full school lockdown.

He said: ‘I’m pleased with the level of parental support. We have had 85 per cent of consent forms retuned and only four per cent have declined permission for the tests.

‘I’m confident schools will remain open. I was concerned around the Christmas period but case numbers have fallen, a quarter of the population have antibodies and we are now in a different situation.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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