Rapid testing planned to help schools reopen on time in January

By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter

Schools in Kensington and Chelsea are still gearing up to reopen in January with “rapid” testing for pupils in secondaries, the council has said.

It comes after the Government issued advice to secondary schools that remote learning should be carried out for the first week of term, and that pupils should return to classrooms from January 11. This is so that mass testing can be rolled out to pupils aged 11 to 16.

Primary schools, where younger children are less infectious, are still due to go back on January 4.

But there has been growing speculation that the Government may advise schools in London to close for even longer, due the sudden spread of the new strain of coronavirus.

Despite this, Councillor Josh Rendall, the council’s lead member for children’s services, sounded an optimistic note that the Government’s current plans will go ahead.

Mr Rendall said: “The commitment is still from government that primary schools will be back from January 4 and secondaries from January 11.

“What we’re going to do is what we had in place for the last week of term. We started rolling out lateral flow testing at two secondary schools with a pilot set up.”

The two secondary schools that administered the pilots were All Saints Catholic College and Kensington Aldridge Academy (KAA), both in North Kensington.

“Thankfully they all came back negative at All Saints, and there were four positive cases in Kensington Aldridge Academy. And we asked them to make sure of the positive result by also booking a PCR test to confirm,” Mr Rendall said.

He continued: “Our schools are doing really, really well at adapting.

“In the first lockdown all our schools stayed open, not a single one closed. That was to protect vulnerable children and monitor safeguarding concerns.

“Staff and teachers are good at keeping an extra eye on them for issues that should be raised with social services.

“I think it’s down to government guidance if they wish to revisit that decision (to keep schools open). But if they do not advise a change, we will be going ahead with opening our schools and encouraging parents to send their children in.”

Asked if local head teachers had expressed concern about returning in January, Mr Rendall said: “Head teachers have been really positive.

“All Saints and KAA were really keen to roll this out. I would like to thank all those head teachers who came back to us. Overall we have had a very positive reaction. That’s down to excellent relationships with our maintained (council controlled) schools.”

He added: “In terms of doing the lateral flow tests, it’s been successful so far. We’re exploring with schools their own complexities… we’re going to work with schools to make sure that they have the best possible outcomes.”

Pictured top: Kensington Aldridge Academy

 


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