Sheffield Inclusion Centre tests majority of staff and pupils after quick rollout of mass Covid testing programme
A Sheffield centre which teaches children excluded from mainstream schools has successfully introduced its mass Covid-19 testing programme.
The Sheffield Inclusion Centre, on Spring Lane in Arbouthorne, began testing last Thursday with the help of school staff who have been trained to take on key roles alongside medically experienced volunteers.
Student testing was then able to start on Monday, with the majority of the school community having successfully been administered a test within the first week of the new programme.
Headteacher Tuesday Rhodes believes that testing will come into its own if there is a positive case as the unit be able to offer daily tests to avoid 10 days of self-isolation and any potential school closure.
She said: “Our children are amongst some of the most vulnerable in Sheffield and anything that allows us to educate and keep them safe is welcome. I have been heartened by the number of children who really want to attend school which is a real culture change from over a year ago when attendance was at a worrying low.
“As always I am so proud of the staff at the Sheffield Inclusion Centre who have the best interests of our children at heart and are going above and beyond to support children and their families.
"We’re quite lucky in that we’ve got a good set of people around us, we’ve got a good set of volunteers and we’ve obviously got fewer staff and children than most schools – something like 190 children on roll and 100 teachers and staff.
“We’ve got through them all, obviously we can’t force people to have it but I think there’s only been one member of staff who said they don’t want the test. Staff will now be tested twice a week.
"I think the most important thing is the testing if we have a case – instead of having to send everyone home and do a self-isolation if we have a positive test because we can test everybody once a day now we won’t have to close the school which is something.”
The Inclusion Centre has been running a full timetable for all its children since the new lockdown was introduced just a day into the new term on January 5.
Ms Rhodes said that approximately half of parents have chosen to keep their children at home where they will receive a mixture of online learning, physical work packs, twice weekly phone calls and a weekly doorstep visit from staff.
She says that staff have felt reassured by the beginning of testing, but that school leadership have stressed that the good practice of hand sanitising and social distancing is more important than ever.
Speaking about the quick introduction of the mass testing programme, Ms Rhodes added: "For us it’s worked quite smoothly, probably becase we’ve had fewer children in.
“Perhaps if you had a mainstream school with 1,000 children it would be a different matter but it’s made staff feel more secure.”
Aside from testing, the Inclusion Centre has also been busy handing out food parcels to its families with the help of Morrisons staff in Halfway and will be implementing free school meal vouchers when the scheme relaunches on Monday.