Before Christmas we published answers to the top ten questions schools and colleges had raised with us following the Department for Education's request that they set up and administer lateral flow tests to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep pupils in school/college.
Since then, the whole of the UK has been placed under strict lockdown rules and schools and colleges are only providing face to face education to vulnerable pupils and those whose parents are key workers (and, in some cases to pupils sitting scheduled exams in January). Despite this, the DfE has said that the tests will continue and, according to the TES, it has updated its guidance to say:
'The coronavirus (Covid-19) testing programme should be continued to enable weekly testing for staff and daily close contact testing for those staff and pupils attending secondary schools and colleges.
'This programme also allows schools and colleges to test pupils on return.'
The government has also updated the Covid testing handbook for schools and colleges and added a number of template documents to a sharing portal as follows:
- Risk assessment template
- Privacy notice for the supply of contact details for people being tested
- Consent form*
- Competency checklists for the testing assistant/swabber
- Sample quality checklist
There's also folders containing downloadable information about signage, planning tools and online training materials, but the best place to start is to look at the document entitled 'read first' which signposts all of the information and resources available to schools and colleges.
A note about consent forms
* Our previous blog explained how teachers and pupils could consent to being tested and we referenced the fact that anyone under the age of 18 is treated as a child for the purposes of data protection and set out steps you need to take to make sure that children were competent to consent to being tested.
The consent form prepared by the government indicates that schools/colleges can treat children aged 16 and 17 differently from younger groups provided they are capable of giving informed consent. It says this:
'For pupils and students younger than 16 years - this form must be completed by the parent or legal guardian. Please complete one consent form for each child you wish to participate in testing.
Pupils and students over 16 who are able to provide informed consent - can complete this form themselves, having discussed participation with their parent / guardian if under 18.
For any pupil or student who does not have the capacity to provide informed consent - this form must be completed by the parent or legal guardian. Please complete one consent form for each child you wish to participate in testing'.
However, the government has made it clear that even if a parent has given consent for their child to be tested, the pupil can refuse to be tested and the school/college should respect their wishes.
Our Coronavirus updates
We're working hard to keep you up to date with legal developments around Coronavirus. We've set up a portal which includes lots of helpful articles and advice to help you.
If you have a query, that we haven't answered, please contact us.