Education Partnership North East colleges carry out thousands of on-campus COVID tests

Education Partnership North East colleges have carried out thousands of COVID-19 tests as students return to campus for face-to-face teaching.

Following the Government’s announcement regarding the reopening of schools and colleges, staff across Hartlepool Sixth Form, Northumberland College and Sunderland College have worked hard to set up rapid testing centres, implement social distancing rules, and ensure all classrooms and learning spaces are COVID secure.

From Monday 8 March, a team of volunteers, which included Health and Social Care and Uniformed Public Services students, carried out over 3,000 asymptomatic lateral flow tests, which helps identify people who are infectious but do not have any symptoms. Only three tests have returned a positive result with those students being supported while they are self-isolating.

Andrew McKenna, Group Director for Health, Safety and Environment, who has overseen the test sites, said: “The safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community is our top priority. We have worked hard to make sure all the necessary COVID-safe measures are in place to keep our everyone as safe as possible on their return to campus.

“To organise and set up our testing stations and carry out this many tests is no mean feat. It has been a massive team effort from all our volunteers, students and tutors as well as our Estates, Student Services and IT teams.

“I have been very impressed by the attitude and professionalism of our student volunteers who have really grown into their roles. They have been a pleasure to work with and I’m very proud of what they have achieved.”

Students and staff returning to college will be given two to three lateral flow tests on campus under supervision, which provide a result in approximately 30 minutes. After that, they will be given lateral flow testing kits to test themselves twice a week. All results are to be reported to NHS Test and Trace as soon as each test is completed, either online or by telephone.

The colleges have introduced a staggered return to campus for students based on their programme of study, along with safety measures such as cashless payments in refectories and face coverings being worn where social distancing cannot be easily maintained.

As a temporary measure until Easter, face coverings must be worn in classrooms and other teaching spaces, unless wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in sport lessons, or for those who are exempt from wearing a face covering as set out in Government guidance.

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