Dear Parents and Carers,

On Thursday we wrote to families explaining the way that we will support the learning of all students during the phased return to school.

As a reminder, Year 11 and Year 13 students will return to school on Monday 11th January and for all other year groups the return date is Monday 18th January. From Tuesday 5th January the only students in school therefore will be those that fall into the vulnerable or key worker categories and who have requested a place via the online application form. During this time Years 7 to 9 will access their lessons via Google Classroom and Years 10 to 13 through live teaching.

We are now in a position to be able to share the plan for Lateral Flow (LFT) testing in secondary schools in York. Over the past year there have been many occasions when I have felt proud to be part of the York Education Community and today represents another example of this. Working in partnership with my colleagues on the York Schools and Academies Board I am pleased to say that we are in a position to announce a co-ordinated approach for all secondary schools in the city. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the very significant efforts from the Local Authority, Public Health York and both the University of York and York St John in making this possible.

Below is the full statement being shared with families in all secondary schools in the city but in summary it is explaining that:

a.  Two dedicated school testing sites will be set up at the University of York and York St John for any family who wish to have their children tested before they return to school.
b. That this will allow schools to concentrate on setting up on site contact testing areas to respond to any confirmed cases of Covid 19 from when students return to school.

Plans for Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) testing in secondary schools

Following the announcement on 30th December delaying the full opening of secondary schools, the City of York Council’s public health and education teams are working with the York Schools and Academies Board to develop plans to offer LFT for staff and pupils to support the phased return to school from 11th January 2021. Whilst testing remains optional the Department for Education has made it clear that there is an expectation that all secondary schools should promote and encourage LFT. 

In York the plan being developed to support secondary schools, their staff and pupils, will involve the offer of testing from two dedicated school testing sites at the University of York and York St John University.  The York St John site will be open only for children in exam year groups (Year 11 and Year 13) from 4th – 7th January 2021. This will support their return to school from 11th January. Both testing sites will be open for all secondary aged children from Friday 8th January to support the full return to school from 18th January 2021. Parents/carers can book a time for a test using the following link:

Bookings can be made for the York St John site using this link from 2nd January, bookings will open for the University of York site from 8th January 2021.

Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or carer when they visit the University testing sites. Children will be required to attend the testing centre twice in a period of 3-5 days prior to their return to school and the results of the tests will be shared with the child’s school.

If a child tests positive they will be required to take a PCR test and to self –isolate until the result of the test is known. If the PCR test is negative the child will be able to attend school from 11th or 18th January dependent upon the return date for their year group.

If a child has tested positive in the 90 days prior to 4th January then it is not necessary for them to have a test if they have completed their isolation period and they should not be booked in for a test if they have not completed their 10 day isolation period.

During week beginning 4th January on site contact testing areas will be set up at each secondary school. From week beginning 11th January these testing areas will provide capacity to test children daily for a period of 7 days if they are confirmed contacts of a child who has had a positive Covid test. This should help to reduce the need for whole bubbles to self-isolate so preventing further disruption to the children’s education. School staff will also be provided with testing kits by their school to allow them to take a twice weekly test. The tests are optional and require consent to be obtained before being administered. Schools will provide a copy of the Covid 19 testing privacy statement which provides details about how personal data will be used, stored and when it and how it will be disposed of.  The personal data collected from school staff, students, parents and carers will only be used for the purposes of testing and consent can be withdrawn at any time.

The tests for children will be supervised by public health trained staff. Members of school staffs will be asked to use self -administered tests. If a child or member of staff has a positive result from a lateral flow test they will be asked to take a PCR test to confirm the positive result. Children/staff testing positive will then be required to self -isolate for 10 days. The school will contact the parents/carers of close contacts and will offer them the opportunity to have a daily test in school or to self-isolate if they do not want to be tested.

The co-ordinated city approach to testing will ensure that schools are supported to make testing available to all staff and pupils from 4th January 2021. The use of the two central testing sites will allow all secondary age children who want to have a test to have been tested prior to their return to school. It also means that the tests will be administered to appropriate clinical standards, overseen by the City of York public health team.

The introduction of lateral flow testing in schools is an additional layer of preventative response to Covid19, but it is important to continue to maintain the other control measures that schools have had in place since March 2020. In York, schools have been very successful in implementing their prevention response and, as a result, school attendance has remained consistently above national averages throughout the pandemic. It is essential that schools continue to implement these measures and to see LFT as an additional tool in the armoury in controlling the spread of the disease.

HANDS, FACE, SPACE remain the essential elements to effective infection control.

As secondary Headteachers we are fully supportive of this two fold approach that will further support the extensive existing measures that have been in place in schools for many months and which have proven to be highly effective in York schools. This support from Public Health will allow schools to continue to provide high quality education provision for students from the 5th January whilst at the same time putting in place manageable in school testing arrangements that crucially should allow more students to remain in school rather than having to self-isolate for 10 days once they have been confirmed as a contact. At Archbishop’s our plans for developing this provision and for facilitating regular testing for staff are at an advanced stage and we are confident that these will be fully in place for when Year 11 and Year 13 return to school on the 11th January. We will share fuller details of how exactly this will work over the coming week.

A reminder that school is open on Monday for staff training and as such colleagues will be available to answer any further questions families have either in terms of the city wide testing arrangements and the online education provision being provided.

In the meantime I would wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Kind Regards

Andrew Daly