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Bethany School in Goudhurst buys its own Covid testing machine

With the Prime Minister announcing new tighter Covid measures - and with some schools closing after students tested positive for the infection - one Weald school has taken positive action to minimise any future disruption.

Bethany School near Goudhurst is due to take collection of a Samba II Covid testing machine, devised by Cambridge University, on Thursday.

The school is hoping to avoid long waits for test results
The school is hoping to avoid long waits for test results

There is currently a big gap between taking a Covid test and getting the results.

The school said that anticipating things would get worse before they got better, they were purchasing their own machine to minimise any disruption to lessons.

It is expected the biggest disruption will not be the number of people who may get ill, but the number of staff and pupils who might have to self-isolate while waiting for a test result.

The Samba II machine can provide a test result within just two hours by analysing a nasal and throat swab.

The machine should be fully operational by Thursday and can test between six and 12 samples in a day.

Bethany headmaster Francie Healy ... Picture Ginnie Corbett
Bethany headmaster Francie Healy ... Picture Ginnie Corbett

This machine will be used to test symptomatic staff, staff households, residents in the independent school's three occupied boarding houses, and symptomatic pupils.

The tests will initially be carried out by the school's existing medical staff, who will be trained on the use of the new kit.

Anyone who tests positive will have to follow the advice of the relevant authorities and will be advised to take the NHS test and therefore get a second opinion.

Headmaster Francie Healy said: “The purchase of the Samba II machine should ensure a rapid testing response time and therefore minimise disruption to the normal practices of our school.

"Our staff continue to work tirelessly to ensure that Bethany remains a safe place for our pupils to learn.”

Bethany School near Goudhurst
Bethany School near Goudhurst

The machine cost the school around £40,000 to purchase and the materials for each test cost another £55.

There is potential for tests to be expanded to family contacts of members of the school community, to reduce the impact on education if individuals outside the school show symptoms, but the school is having to explore the insurance implications of such an expanded regime.

The school, now in its 154th year, has seen a 6% growth in pupil numbers this year, despite the difficulties of Covid.

It was praised by parents for the remote teaching and learning provided during lockdown, and staff used the time to put in extensive health and safety measures to help students back into the classroom, creating one-way systems, providing extensive hand-washing facilities and adopting new procedures for the arrival of pupils, staff and visitors.

The wearing of face coverings has also been made compulsory in classrooms.

Students wearing face-masks in a class at Bethany School
Students wearing face-masks in a class at Bethany School

Mr Healy said: "Bethany received outstanding praise from parents and pupils on our remote teaching provision.

"We have also spent a great deal of time and effort ensuring that our campus is as Covid un-friendly as possible.

"We believe that both of these factors have played a pivotal part in prospective parents feeling that their children are going to be exceptionally well looked after at Bethany, not just during this pandemic but also, throughout their entire education.”

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