Covid – A Year On: Mass testing underway to provide a safe education

Thousands of lateral flow tests have been carried out across Wessex Learning Trust schools this month.

Thousands of lateral flow tests have been carried out across Wessex Learning Trust schools this month. - Credit: Wessex Learning Trust

Education leaders have praised staff for their unwavering dedication to ensure pupils are able to continue studying in the midst of the pandemic.

In England, school reopened for all age groups on March 8, with attendance compulsory other than for shielding students. 

In the region, school gyms have been transformed into Covid-19 mass test centres, with thousands of lateral flow tests being carried out at schools in Weston, Highbridge and Cheddar.  

The Priory Learning Trust, which oversees Worle and Priory community school academies as well as The King Alfred School in Highbridge, has undertaken more than 10,000 tests since schools reopened this month. 

Chief executive of the trust, Neville Coles, said: “Our school teams of staff and local volunteers undertook more than 10,000 tests in a three-week period of students and staff. A huge task, brilliantly done.  

Mass Covid-19 testing has been carried out across schools in North Somerset and Somerset this month.

Mass Covid-19 testing has been carried out across schools in North Somerset and Somerset this month. - Credit: Gordano School

“All our schools and principals are now continuing to do what they are brilliant at – putting students first and making sure all our dedicated staff are positive and well.  

“We are delivering regular talks and providing support to help the students with their mental health and wellbeing following the long break.  

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“We have also recruited another 40 local people to join our in-house teacher training programme for 2021-22 and we now have 17 newly-qualified teachers in our schools.

“We are really optimistic about 2021 and beyond” 

The Wessex Learning Trust, which oversees The Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar, said the first week of reopening alone was dominated by thousands of lateral flow tests being carried out and said its staff ‘rose to the challenge’ to welcome students back to school across the trust. 

A spokesman said: “Schools have undergone a huge number of changes in the past year to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic.  

“We recognise the toll that lockdown has had on children and as much as our focus in the classroom is to provide outstanding learning, it is also to support children’s mental health and wellbeing – be that through assemblies, mindfulness sessions, or even just giving the children time to play.  

“What is clear is how much children love being back at school and how important it has been for them to be back. 

“Educating through the pandemic has not been an easy journey, but we have navigated with resolve and strength to come out the other end having done the best we possibly could for our children.”