Karen Hayler is Business Manager at Worthing High School, a maintained secondary with a mix of boys and girls aged 11 to 16 in the coastal town of Worthing, West Sussex. Karen shares how her school has encouraged participation in COVID-19 testing amongst students and staff over the past year and why it’s important for students to continue to test as they return to school.
Keeping students and parents engaged with testing
The testing programme is only effective if students and their families are engaged and actively participating. To encourage this, we focus on three main areas:
- Building testing into their routine
- Monitoring who is and who isn’t reporting their results
- Reminders, reminders, reminders
As schools return for the autumn term, staff and students should take two on-site rapid COVID-19 tests (3-5 days apart), followed by twice weekly testing at home. At Worthing High School, we do this every Wednesday and Sunday and ask for results to be reported by 8pm on each day. To help us monitor test results, we have invested in an online portal which allows parents and students to easily log their results. We also use the monitoring data to follow up with those who haven’t been testing and understand why this is. The portal also provides a direct link to the NHS Test and Trace reporting system. We send reminders at 6am twice a week on testing days via email and social media and follow up with a reminder email to any who have not logged results by 8.30pm – which we can track in our online system.
On a Thursday and Monday morning, tutors are given a list of students who have not yet tested and asked to speak to them confidentially – as a reminder of how important testing is to control the spread of the virus.
We issue replacement test kits to students in year group assemblies – each test box kit is labelled with the student’s name and tutor group to ensure kits are not mislaid and are being taken home.
Timely reporting and regular communication are key
Having access to timely data on who has and has not tested has been vital in our drive to continue to promote the importance of testing across the school. Thanks to the timely reporting by parents, we have been able to respond to positive cases promptly and effectively.
Parents have not just let us know positive results, they have reported each and every test their child does. They know how much we value the investment they are making to keeping our school community safe.
Throughout our experiences of testing so far, we have found communication to be key. Our advice to other schools would just be to communicate constantly to parents, staff and students – reminding them of the importance of testing and thanking them for the efforts they are making to enable us to continue to fight the spread of COVID-19. We do this through frequent texts, letters, emails and on our social media accounts.
Keep up testing and reporting as you return to school and college
Testing commences again just before we return, it remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of infection within schools. All parents and carers have already been emailed our testing programme arrangements for the start of autumn term and students and tutors have also received the information. We are highlighting the benefits of testing, that by taking part in regular rapid testing, you’ll be protecting yourself and your loved ones. And helping us all get back to a more normal way of life.
Year 7 students complete their first of two in school tests as part of their summer school programme with their second test just before they start with us. All other students, in years 8 to 11, will either be testing twice at home before returning to school in September or we have arranged three in school test days which they can attend instead. All test results will continue to be recorded on our own portal and the NHS Test and Trace reporting system.
If you’d like to hear more about how we’ve delivered testing and kept pupils engaged, we’d be happy to speak to you – please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Get help with improving testing participation
There is a range of guidance, resources and support available to help schools and colleges deliver testing and encourage participation, including:
- Materials to help encourage participation and reporting, with additional downloadable products for areas where variants of concern have been identified, from Public Health England.
- Schools and colleges coronavirus operational guidance – this can be found on the Department for Education’s document sharing platform for schools and colleges.
- Contact Tracing resources including FAQs and letter templates for parents (from Monday 19 July, schools, colleges and nurseries will no longer carry out routine contact tracing. From this point onwards, close contacts will be identified and contacted by NHS Test and Trace) – this can be found on the Department for Education’s document sharing platform for schools and colleges.
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