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School completes start-of-term screening programme

More than 330 members at staff at Tonbridge School have taken part in a start-of-term screening programme put in place to help keep the School community safe and well. 

Teachers, matrons, technicians and many support staff have been attending voluntary screenings for Covid-19 in recent days at a special clinic set up in the Tonbridge School Centre sports hall. The screening process, being run over several days, is helping to ensure the continuity of teaching, learning and all Tonbridge School operations during the latest lockdown.

Screening has also been carried out for Tonbridge boys who are still at the School, for instance the children of critical workers and those international boarders who are on site.

The screening took place using a Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Testing Kit, known as a Lateral Flow Assay (LFA), which involves a swab being taken of the throat and nose. The tests have been carried out by trained nursing staff.

Results were made available within about an hour: staff testing negative, which to date is the vast majority, were notified by email and were therefore free to continue with their normal work duties. Any staff testing positive were immediately notified by telephone, and then told to self-isolate and to book a PCR Covid test with the NHS.

James Priory, Tonbridge’s Headmaster, said: “There has been a tremendous response from staff to the screening that we have been able to offer, and the programme we have in place will of course be rolled out to all our boys in due course. 

“The screening is a welcome addition to the many safety and hygiene measures that have been in place at the School throughout the previous term. Our priority, as always, is to ensure a safe and secure working environment for all in the School community.”

Kat Portman, Theatre Manager at the School’s EM Forster Theatre, is one of the staff currently managing the screening process. “We have been able to provide a professional and efficient service and we’re all really pleased with how well the system has been working,” she said. “The feedback has been hugely positive, with staff telling us they are impressed with how speedy and well-organised it all is: from arriving for a test to leaving took only a few minutes.” 

Following this initial period of screening, routine testing will now be made available for all School staff as soon as possible. Those who wish to will also be able to have a Lateral Flow Test once a week. The School is also looking at the use of ‘serial testing’ both at present and when all boys return. 

During the pandemic, the School has been working with two renowned companies, Sutton House and Diagnostics for the Real World, receiving expert advice and drawing on their vast experience of safety, security and medical issues. 

At the start of the previous term, Tonbridge acquired a SAMBA-II testing facility, which enabled rapid and reliable testing of boys and staff displaying symptoms to be carried out at the School. Tonbridge was the first school in the UK to introduce this facility on site.

The School has also launched its latest version of ‘Tonbridge Online’, the fully interactive educational programme designed to support pupils and parents throughout this new period of remote learning, which will run until at least the February half term break. 

Pictured: The screening clinic set up at the Tonbridge School Centre.