Pupils and teachers are to be tested for COVID-19 in the government’s latest move to persuade parents to send children back to school.
Using voluntary swab tests, the study will assess the risk of coronavirus spreading among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers.
Tests will initially be carried out in up to 100 schools across England, including 15 in London, targeting around 200 staff and children at each school, with results available over the summer.
The announcement of the plan, to be outlined in a Commons statement by education secretary Gavin Williamson, comes as the cabinet meets to discuss further moves to ease the lockdown.
It also comes after health secretary Matt Hancock admitted that all schools may not be able to reopen fully even in September.
As Mr Williamson faces MPs in the Commons, he is likely to be challenged on how many parents have heeded the government’s advice to send their children back to primary school over the past week.
Speaking ahead of his statement on the schools testing programme, Mr Williamson said: “We know that being in school is vital for children’s education and their wellbeing.
“Last week, primary schools began to welcome back some pupils and secondary schools will begin to do the same from 15 June, as part of our phased and cautious approach to getting children and young people back into the classroom.
“Studies like this will be invaluable as we continue moving forward with those plans, and help us assess the next steps for getting all children back into schools, nurseries and colleges with their friends and teachers.”
The government insists the test to determine whether someone currently has the virus – involving a swab of the inside of the nose and the back of the throat using a long cotton bud – is completely safe.
The antibody test to determine whether someone has had the virus and developed antibodies requires a blood sample.
Trained paediatric staff will take all blood samples from children and trained medical professionals will visit schools to carry out the testing.
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