This is how my sixth form college will tackle the mass testing challenge

mass testing

26 Feb 2021, 11:15


Staff will be mass testing dozens of students an hour in order to get them safely back into learning, writes Gerard Garvey

Colleagues at Newcastle Sixth Form College were relieved to have clarity over the reopening of colleges and an end to fully remote learning this week.

Whilst staff at our college have astounded me with the way they seamlessly moved to synchronous online delivery, we know that the best place for our students is in the classroom, receiving expert tuition from talented teachers who can respond to their needs.

We also know that our learners and their families are looking forward to the return to classroom based learning as well as the personalised wrap around support, which is much harder to replicate online.

We intend to bring back our 1,250 students in phases, beginning with an appointment for their initial test on Monday, March 8.

This will continue across the early part of that week until all those consenting have been tested.

We plan to invite our students in blocks of 80 per hour – the number we are comfortable our testing team of six can safely process – with a view to testing everybody by the end of Tuesday.

Naturally, this will lead to some disruption to our regular activities for a couple of days, but we are keen to get the first test out of the way swiftly.

I understand the anxiety in the sector about running large scale testing on site

We hope to have all of our students tested in time for a full reopening for all learners on Wednesday 10 March and will run the second and third tests during the college day.

I understand the anxiety in the sector about running large scale testing on site.

But our experience with the mass testing pilot last term has shown us that we can process hundreds of tests in a single day with a team of less than 10 and we have our staff testing team trained and ready.

I fully appreciate the challenge is very different for larger colleges.

As part of NCG we have some colleges with up to 11,000 students to test across the next few weeks and we have been working as a group to look at how we can do this in a way that is both efficient and safe.

I wouldn’t suggest for a second that the next couple of weeks are without challenge – but I am sure we can all agree that this is a positive move in getting young people back on site so we can finish preparing them for their futures.

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