Returning to College Thursday 11 March

UK 16-19

Dear Itchen Student and Parents and Guardians

Further to my message on Monday evening I am now in a position to update you regarding next steps for return and testing.

I want to start by confirming a full return for all students tomorrow morning, Thursday 11th March. All College buses will be running as normal.

All the other 20 schools involved in the saliva testing programme using the same laboratory facility as us have been informed that the system has been paused while the data processing issues that blighted our efforts over the weekend are resolved. Although the team suggest the matter should be resolved in a week, they will need to test and trial the system with limited numbers which means we cannot rely upon the process over the next few weeks. It may be that the programme re-starts after Easter, so please do not throw away your testing kits or barcodes, tempting as that may be.

In seeking a solution we have been in contact with Public Health England and they have given us the go ahead to move directly to implementing home testing with lateral flow devices. They understand that we are in this position through no fault of our own, given we had direction last week to rely solely on saliva testing. This means that we do not need to undertake the three tests in college that other institutions have to before allowing home testing.

A reminder that we have had confirmation that all those of you missing results who returned samples last Tuesday or Thursday were negative. This means that tomorrow and Friday this week we will go ahead and test those students who have not yet undertaken a test, using the lateral flow testing centre set up in the Sports Hall.  If you are in this group you will be contacted again by text message and directed to the Main Hall on arrival for your first lesson. You will join your lesson once a negative test has been confirmed. This means that by Friday afternoonall students in classrooms who have consented to participate will have had at least one test and a negative result.

This does mean we will need another concerted effort this week and next week to distribute the home testing kits and fully brief you on what is required. We are expecting the home testing kits to be delivered on Friday and we will begin distributing as soon as they arrive. Assuming the kits arrive, we will also open the College on Saturday morning to distribute, allowing you to undertake another test over the weekend. I will send a further message on Friday to confirm the kits have arrived and collection can happen on Saturday.

There are very clear instructions to go with the kits, but we will supplement these with guidance that teachers and tutors will go through with you. Please have a look at this short video provided by the NHS offering full instructions for home testing - How to do a COVID-19 Self-Test

Consent is given by you through the action of taking the test and you or your parents do not need to give written consent. I have attached the College’s specific privacy statement for home testing. There is no need for any protective equipment and waste can be disposed of in normal refuse bins. You will need to report results to NHS: https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result.

Although this is not what we had intended to implement, it is the best option available to us, and limits further disruption to your learning.

Please remember that although regular testing reduces risk of transmission, the result is only relevant at the time the test was taken. It is not a substitute for all of the other measures we have in place – please continue to follow those measures paying particular attention to face coverings and social distancing.

I apologise once again for the delay in return - I am really looking forward to welcoming you back tomorrow.

With best regards

Alex Scott