It wasn’t only schools that saw their best-laid plans turned upside down by Monday (4 January) evening’s announcement of a full lockdown in England.
Earlier in the day, Thomson Screening had launched its SchoolScreener COVID Manager software, a test register promising to help with the administrative strain of testing pupils for coronavirus.
That strain became altogether less burdensome when, within hours, the prime minister declared that schools will once again be closed to all pupils except the children of key workers and vulnerable young people.
This will remain the case until February 15 at the earliest, when England’s lockdown rules will be reviewed.
The cloud-based software, a version of Thomson Screening’s more general COVID-19 test manager, was adapted for schools in response to the mid-December announcement from the Department for Education (DfE) stating that all schools with secondary-age pupils would be “offered the opportunity” to test pupils from the week of 4 January.
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While making clear that testing would not be mandatory, the DfE nevertheless advised that it would be “strongly encouraged, particularly in areas of higher prevalence of the virus”.
That advice will likely be repeated when schools fully reopen, of course, at which point demand may increase for software including consent and registration management, reporting who has been tested and when, anonymised reporting at school level (heat maps for clusters or other warning signs), reporting to other public health bodies, and more.
The software is NHS- and GDPR-compliant, with results able to be stored and destroyed within one month of the testing programme ending.
Costing £200 plus VAT for usage during the spring term, SchoolScreener COVID Manager was funded by Innovate UK, a non-departmental public body forming part of the United Kingdom Research and Innovation organisation.