DfE confirms that PVI nursery staff will have access to twice-weekly home test kits from 22 March

Monday, February 22, 2021

All staff at private, voluntary and independent nurseries and pre-schools will have access to tests to use twice weekly at home, the Department for Education has now confirmed.

PVI settings have had to wait a month for the availability of home tests.
PVI settings have had to wait a month for the availability of home tests.

Nursery staff will be supplied with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits to self-swab twice a week, with test results provided in 30 minutes, from 22 March. Testing will help to identify positive cases, particularly those who may have the virus and do not have symptoms.

The DfE said this plan builds on the testing already available to maintained nursery schools and school-based nurseries.

The plan does not currently include childminders, who will still only have access to community testing. The DfE said it was continuing to work with colleagues across government to review the testing approach available for childminders. 

Formerly only maintained nurseries and early years settings linked to schools had access to home asymptomatic lateral flow testing.

The DfE said that by providing the majority of early years staff with home testing kits, it would be able to better meet the needs of the early years workforce and identify positive cases more quickly to break the chains of transmissions.

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‘Fantastic news for the sector’
The news has been welcomed by sector organisations which have been campaigning for home-testing kits for early years settings.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said that testing is one of two crucial pillars to keeping staff and children as safe as possible in early years settings: ‘Mass rapid testing and vaccination of critical workers are key. The announcement that all staff in PVI nurseries and pre-school settings will have the same access to testing as schools is fantastic news for the sector.

‘We have worked hard alongside our members to ensure the practical and logistical challenges are overcome. We hope that soon childminders will also be able to access the testing kits. Early years staff have been desperately waiting for this support since the scheme for schools was announced in December.

‘We hope that the roll-out of this plan can happen as soon as possible so early years workers can test at home before setting off to work, limiting the spread of the virus. The next stage has to be the question of vaccination for staff because that is how we can ensure they are as safe as possible and minimise the disruption of care and education for our youngest children.’

The Early Years Alliance also welcomed the news, but said that it was ‘completely unacceptable’ that childminders were excluded. The organisation has proposed a system whereby, as an interim measure, childminders can access home-testing via local group settings.

Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said, 'After months of sector lobbying, today's announcement will come as welcome, though long overdue, news for private and voluntary nurseries and pre-schools – although many will be understandably frustrated that they will have to wait a full month for this change to come into effect.

'It is completely unacceptable, however, that there is still no information on when – or even if – home testing kits will be available to registered childminders in England.  

The Alliance also called for early years workers to be prioritised for vaccinations as part of the next phase of the vaccination delivery plan.

The move comes as the prime minister outlined his ‘roadmap’ in Parliament to moving the country out of lockdown.

This includes primary and secondary schools and colleges to reopen to all children from 8 March. All primary school children will return on Monday 8 March. Primary school staff will continue to take two rapid Covid-19 tests each week at home.

Evidence from the Public Health England-led Schools Infection Study continues to show that infection rates in schools mirror infection rates in the wider community, suggesting schools are not the main driver of infections, it added.

 

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