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Newbury pupils to return to school - with a new kind of test

Headteachers reassure their returning students

Pupils testing for Covid at The Downs School
Pupils testing for Covid at The Downs School

ALL pupils will return to the classroom early next month – but with testing and face coverings now becoming part of the daily routine for many.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his four-stage roadmap for moving the country out of lockdown, starting with the reopening of schools for all pupils on Monday, March 8.

Students at secondary schools will now be required to take two lateral flow tests each week and will have to wear face coverings at all times, even in lessons – which is a change from the way schools were operating at the end of last year.

However, the testing is nothing new for schools, which have remained open throughout the third lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils, and these students, along with their teachers, have been taking part in regular tests since the start of the year.

Headteacher at St Bartholomew’s School in Newbury, Julia Mortimore, said the school was now busy preparing for the return of all students and the expansion of the testing regime.

“We are really looking forward to welcoming students and staff back to St Bart’s from the March 8 for face-to-face teaching,” she said.

“We are busy preparing the school for the students’ return, including expanding our testing provision which has been running successfully since January.

“Our students have not found the testing experience difficult and have been reassured by the opportunity to be tested.

“Our testing team support our students really well through their swab test and we will be sending further information to parents and students before students return.

“All our existing Covid safety measures will remain in place and we will follow all the latest Government guidance.

“We realise that for some students the transition back to school may seem daunting but all our teaching and pastoral staff will be ready to assist our students in settling back in to St Bart’s.”

Charlotte Wilson, headteacher at Newbury’s Trinity School, said all parents would receive more details on the return to the classroom by the end of the week.

She said she hoped to be able to begin testing pupils next week, ahead of their return to school the following Monday, but that this was reliant on the school receiving enough testing kits from the Government.

Dr Wilson added: “We are very hopeful that we can test all the children for them to be able to return to school on March 8.

“Our priority is getting the children back to the classroom.

“Obviously the past few weeks have not been what we wanted, but given the situation we are in, it has all been really successful.

“We have had headteacher and house challenges and weekly whole school and house assemblies to keep the children connected.”

The aim is that all children would be tested three times at school to ensure they are comfortable and confident with the process before tests could be sent home for pupils to do themselves, Dr Wilson said.

Chris Prosser, headteacher at The Downs School in Compton, said the testing system in place for all key worker children and staff had been working well over the past six weeks.

“We tested all staff first, which went really well, and we worked really hard to ensure that was the case,” he said.

“Obviously, we work to a robust risk assessment and worked hard to make sure the right training was in place for the testers.

“We tested all the key worker pupils and again, it went like clockwork. The students were immaculately behaved.

“I think all the planning that we did in the Christmas holidays paid off, so we were able to get it done quickly and effectively.”

Some of the Year 9 students currently in school at St Bart’s have reassured fellow pupils that the tests are nothing to worry about.

One said: “The staff that do the tests are really helpful, and they explain everything really clearly.”

Another added: “It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it is really easy to do.”

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