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Thatcham school’s Covid health tests feed into national study

Research assessed and monitored the prevalence of coronavirus among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

Thatcham school’s Covid  health tests feed into national study

A THATCHAM school has played its part in helping to prepare for children returning to schools across the country. 

As previously reported in the Newbury Weekly News, Thatcham Park Primary School was one of 131 schools and educational settings taking part in a voluntary Public Health England (PHE) Covid-19 study.

The research assessed and monitored the prevalence of coronavirus among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers.

During the five-week study 159 people were tested – 113 children whose parents gave consent and 46 staff.

Thatcham Park’s representative sample was tested with nasal swabs each week, over five weeks.

Staff also undertook an antibody test in the final week. 

No results came back positive. 

Headteacher Alison Webster said: “Being part of the study was very important as potentially the results helped to inform steps the Government have taken with regards to the children returning to school.

“Studies rely on volunteers; we at  Thatcham Park were happy to volunteer to participate in this national study, as we may have contributed some valuable and reassuring evidence about low rates of infection and transmission in primary schools, which in turn should give confidence to both colleagues and parents.”

Thatcham Park was chosen for several reasons, including its geographical location and that its safeguarding practices had been judged outstanding.

Mrs Webster said that once the participants and administrators had completed the first week of testing, everyone was prepared for the routine and process the following week, so it became ‘normal’.

The results from Thatcham Park and other schools were fed back to PHE, which said that “SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission rates were low in preschool and primary schools under surveillance”.

PHE said it had found “very few” infections and transmission events in 131 educational settings.

“We found no evidence of an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in students or staff attending school during the summer half-term in England,” a PHE report said.

“SARS-CoV-2 infection rates were very low, with no secondary cases identified among household or school contacts.

"SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity rates were similar in students and staff indicating that children do get infected, but may be more likely to have asymptomatic or mild illness.

“Similar studies are needed in secondary schools and higher education settings where the risk of infection, transmission and disease are likely to be different.”

It said it did not find any additional cases within the household, class bubble or wider education setting when tested where a positive case was identified.

In total, 12,047 participants in 131 schools had 43,039 swabs taken. The infection rate was: 3.9/100,000/ week (one per 25,674; 95 per cent, in students and 11.3/100,000/week (two per 17,695; 95 per cent CI, 1.40-40.8) in staff.

The report said: “Non-white ethnicity, a history of Covid-19 like symptoms and having a healthcare worker in the household were significantly associated with seropositivity in both students and staff, but not school attendance, time spent in school or level of contact between staff and students.”

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