Theatre chaperones help to test more than 1,000 Northampton school students and staff for coronavirus ahead of full return
'We can’t wait to see all of our students’ smiling faces on Monday!'
A Northampton secondary school enlisted the help of theatre chaperones to test more than 1,000 students and staff members for coronavirus ahead of its full reopening tomorrow (Monday, March 8).
Malcolm Arnold Academy hired Chaperones 4 Kidz employees who have been out of work during the pandemic to help run its testing centre for two days last week.
Parents and teachers have told principal Megan Morris how friendly and stress-free the Trinity Avenue school's testing operation has been thanks to the chaperone's involvement.
“We wanted to ensure that we make our return as safe as possible, and with the help of Chaperones 4 Kidz, we have been able to do this through our highly efficient testing system," she said.
"The uptake has been fantastic - we have tested 1,000 students in two days - and we hope that students, parents, staff, and the local community can feel assured that safety remains our number one priority.
"We can’t wait to see all of our students’ smiling faces on Monday!”
Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced schools will be welcoming all pupils from tomororow as part of the 'roadmap' out of lockdown.
Only vulnerable students and the children of key workers have been present and the rest learning virtually during the third national shutdown, which started on January 4.
As part of the return, secondary school pupils will be getting regular rapid coronavirus tests - three at school before two-a-week at home.
Ms Morris was determined to swiftly and safely open the gates to all pupils by pre-return testing everyone this week, which was welcomed by parents.
“Here at Malcolm Arnold, we strongly believe that school is the best place for all of our students to be, and it was really important to us that we brought everyone back together," she said.
"Not only will this allow us to deliver our world-class education in-person, it will also alleviate the pressure on our families who have been through so much over the last few months.
"Our remote learning offer has been fantastic and students have been brilliantly engaged over lockdown, but nothing can replace the classroom.
Pre-covid, employees at Chaperones 4 Kidz would be hired to look after children who are performing in theatre shows or appearing as extras on film sets.
All have to go through rigorous safeguarding training, have full DBS checks, and are experienced working with children but the pandemic has dramatically affected their workload.
Natalie Barron, head of Chaperones 4 Kidz, said they realised they were the perfect people to help out when the government announced the move towards mass testing in schools.
"Through this partnership, Malcolm Arnold Academy have supported the arts and given chaperones some much needed work while theatres remain closed and filming opportunities have been reduced.
"It has been a great success and we are proud to be part of it," she added.
Ms Morris saw a mutually-beneficial opportunity and they received additional training to administer Covid tests to get involved with Malcolm Arnold Academy's testing centre.
Parents said they brought their friendly, likeable presence to an otherwise potentially stressful environment while teachers were relieved to be able to spend more time preparing for next week's lessons and felt safer.
Stuart Burns, chief executive of the David Ross Education Trust (DRET), which Malcolm Arnold Academy is part of, said: “It’s fantastic to see the success of the testing programme at Malcolm Arnold Academy.
"Students shown real resilience during lockdown, but it is certainly time to move back to the classroom safely.
"Across all of our DRET academies, a safe return is our first priority, and Malcolm Arnold Academy has surely embodied that commitment.
"We hope that the community can be assured that DRET academies will do everything we can to minimise risk and ensure a return to school life.
"Thank you to everyone at MAA and Chaperones 4 Kidz who is making this happen so smoothly.”