Colleges will receive just 10 coronavirus home testing kits each, and should only use them in “exceptional circumstances”, the government has said.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, announced in July that educational settings would receive a “small number” of kits to send home with learners or staff who develop coronavirus symptoms, but would otherwise struggle to get a test.
Today Nick Gibb, the schools minister, has confirmed settings will soon begin to receive the kits – along with some free personal protective equipment – ahead of the autumn term.
The PPE includes clinical face masks, aprons, gloves, visors and hand sanitiser that is being provided free of charge by the Department of Health and Social Care in a one-off distribution.
“I have seen first hand the protective measures schools have put in place ahead of pupils returning, and the lengths they have gone to so that their pupils and staff are as safe as possible,” said Gibb.
“This week schools and colleges will begin to receive their first home testing kits as well as personal protective equipment to use in the very rare situations in which it may be required.”
Colleges will only receive 10 testing kits each, although the Department for Education said they would be able to order more if required.
The DfE said home testing kits should only be offered to individuals in the “exceptional circumstance” that colleges believe an individual may not be able to access a test elsewhere.
In the DfE’s schools reopening guidance, it states that schools can give the home testing kits out directly to parents collecting a child who has developed symptoms at school, or staff with symptoms at school, where “they think providing one will significantly increase the likelihood of them getting tested”.
The guidance adds that PPE is only needed in a “very small number of cases” such as where a child becomes ill with coronavirus symptoms while at school and only if a two metre distance cannot be maintained. The other example is where a child or young person already has routine intimate care needs that involve the use of PPE.
Gibb added: “I hope this acts as additional reassurance to parents that schools are ready to welcome children back to school, adding to the growing parental confidence shown in recent opinion polls.”
The DfE confirmed last night pupils and staff in secondary schools and colleges in high-transmission areas will be required to wear face coverings following a U-turn by the government.