School testing programme unveiled as youngest pupils to back to class

Pupils arriving back at Lamlash primary school on Wednesday.

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The youngest pupils on Arran will be heading back to school next week as the island’s primary schools open their doors to resume classes.

From Monday primary 1 to 3 pupils, and those at pre-school will return to face-to-face learning. Other age groups will continue to learn from home, apart from some secondary pupils who need to complete coursework.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was unlikely that any other pupils would return to school before March 15 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, an asymptomatic testing programme is being introduced across North Ayrshire schools, including Arran.

All schools will have access to asymptomatic testing kits following the February half-term break, in bid to stop the spread of Covid-19 and to keep schools open.

All staff (early years, primary, secondary and ASN) and senior phase pupils in S4-S6 will be asked to take test kits home, and twice weekly, following clear instructions for use, perform the tests on themselves or with the support of a parent or carer. They will then register positive or negative results on a web-based portal, with the results shared with NHS Test and Protect.

The voluntary home-testing programme aims to contribute to the reduction of Covid-19 related risks in schools and help keep teachers, staff, children and young people as safe as possible. The testing programme will help to easily identify people within schools who are not showing symptoms and ask them and their close contacts to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus.

In coming days, schools will arrange to distribute the test kits to consenting staff and senior phase pupils.

Councillor John Bell, cabinet member for education, North Ayrshire Council, said: ‘We want to do everything we can to ensure our schools are safe for everyone – the introduction of asymptomatic testing will help us to break the chain of transmission.

‘This widespread testing programme is voluntary for all staff and senior phase secondary pupils; however, we are strongly encouraging school staff and senior phase pupils to participate, in order to contribute to the wellbeing of our school communities.

‘I must emphasise that regular testing is only for people without symptoms. Anyone with symptoms must continue to follow national guidance and book a test at a test centre.’