School pupils ‘required’ to take Covid test before returning

Rules in place at the end of summer term are expected to remain with an alternative to self-isolation being considered.

School pupils ‘required’ to take Covid test before returning ChiccoDodiFC via iStock
'Pupils will be required to do Lateral Flow Tests the week prior to returning.'

School children would be “required” to take a coronavirus test the week before returning to school, in plans proposed at a Scottish Government meeting.

The Scottish Covid-19 Education Recovery Group met last month and heard the proposals for pupils starting the new term.

Officials updated the meeting proposing that mitigations in place at the end of term would be carried forward to August due to “current levels of uncertainty, especially linked to the delta variant”.

The minutes of the meeting, published on Wednesday, revealed that a decision on whether to ease or maintain restrictions in schools would be decided after the new term had begun.

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The contingency planning working group plans stated: “Pupils will be required to do Lateral Flow Tests the week prior to returning.”

However, despite this, a Scottish Government spokesperson said the asymptomatic testing programme “will remain voluntary” and will “not be mandatory”.

The tests have been shown to be 95% effective at detecting Covid-19 at the onset of infection and soon after symptoms start.

The Scottish Government is also looking at alternatives to contact tracing and self-isolation.

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The meeting greeted the paper with positive feedback and agreed that it was the “optimal approach under the circumstances”.

At-home Lateral Flow Tests were made available to teachers, pupils, and school staff twice a week when the phased return to classrooms started in February.

The testing in schools was entirely voluntary.

Cabinet secretary for education Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP chaired the meeting on June 10 which was attended by representatives of COSLA, the SQA, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and Education Scotland.

The plans come as the number of younger Scots being vaccinated has dropped.

Around 30% of 18 to 29-year-olds in Scotland have not had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine despite every adult being offered a first appointment, figures show.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Education Recovery Group is continuing to monitor the latest data and public health advice as they plan for the new school year.

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“Asymptomatic testing is one of a range of mitigations used against the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

“We will continue to strongly encourage staff and secondary pupils to take part in regular testing, including in the days immediately prior to return, although the programme will remain voluntary. Testing will not be mandatory.

“Updated guidance on mitigations will be provided to local authorities and schools in advance of the new term.”