Mass coronavirus testing pilot launched at school in Bognor Regis
Members of the armed forces were deployed to a school in Bognor Regis for the launch of a mass coronavirus testing pilot scheme this week.
Students and staff at The Regis school in Westloats Lane were given mouth and nose swabs to test for the virus on Monday and Tuesday.
Because the test can identify positive cases even when they are asymptomatic, mass testing can help stop the spread of the virus, the school said.
It can also prevent other students and staff who have been in close contact with a positive case from self-isolating – as long as they commit to being tested every day and continue to test negative.
While taking part in the pilot was not compulsory, the school said the ‘overwhelming majority’ volunteered.
In total, 1,160 people have been tested over the two days – 985 students and 175 staff – and no one tested positive.
Principal Dave Oakes said: “As a Headteacher, my priority is firstly ensuring the safety, health and well-being of our students and staff and secondly making sure we are able to deliver a high-quality education that minimises the impact that COVID has on the school.
“Taking part in mass testing allows us to achieve both.
“It was totally straightforward, painless and is helping reduce the anxieties of students, staff and family members by making school safer.
“By minimising the need for self-isolation, we will be able to ensure that more students and staff remain in school at all times and thus the disruption caused by COVID-19 can be hugely reduced.
“I am very proud that we are involved in this project and of how our school community has embraced the opportunity to take part.
“The trained, military professionals who have been conducting the tests have been excellent and very conscious that some students would be nervous of having the test.
“They’ve been hugely supportive and put everyone at ease. The whole process has gone incredibly smoothly this week and we look forward to it continuing.”
The Regis school is one of four schools from the United Learning group taking part in the program, which has been organised by NHS Test and Trace.
The tests were carried out by medically-trained members of the Armed Forces, including 12 Royal Airforce members from Brize Norton and seven army members from the armoured medical regiment.
They will be returning to carry out further tests each week until Christmas.
Staff member Yola Harvey said it was ‘amazing’ how quick and straightforward the testing process was. “It’s all done and dusted in minutes,” she said.
“Everyone’s been really helpful and ensured that we’ve had very little disruption to the school day.
“If we can do this from now on, we can keep everyone safe and at school wherever possible.”
Jenny Brakefield, another staff member, said: “We have all been very reassured by the measures put in place so that we can safely socially distance this term and it’s great that everyone in the school has made these new processes part of our daily routine.
“But to have the opportunity to be tested each week adds gives us all extra confidence and reassurance for ourselves, the students and our families.”
One Year 12 student who took part said getting tested gave her ‘peace of mind’.
“This definitely makes me more comfortable coming to school and feeling safe as I know that everyone here is clear of COVID infection,” she said.