Sixth form class sent home after Covid test experiment

A GUEST speaker’s antigen and antibody tests led to a Covid-19 experiment going wrong at Blanchelande College when two students and a teacher falsely tested positive on Thursday.

Blanchelande College principal Robert O'Brien. (28808345)
Blanchelande College principal Robert O'Brien. (28808345)

The entire sixth form class involved in the exercise had to be sent home from the school following advice from Public Health, while the three individuals were taken to hospital to have a further test – all came back negative.

This was as a result of students being given the opportunity to try a Covid-19 test in their A-level biology class which is different to those used by Public Health, using a saliva sample.

The tests have a greater chance – around 20% – of giving a false positive result.

In a letter to parents, the school’s principal Robert O’Brien said they would now review their procedures.

‘The aim of this highly topical activity was to enrich their understanding of immunology [as] part of their A-level syllabus,’ he said.

‘While this exercise provided our students with a real-world experience of the latest technology available to screen populations for Covid-19, we will certainly be reviewing our procedures, and are of course relieved that everyone is in good health, and grateful to the staff at Public Health for their support this afternoon.’

A spokesperson from the Public Health team said they would dissuade anybody from trying at-home testing kits.

‘It is important to remind the community that whilst antigen and antibody test kits are available to purchase, they do have a greater chance of giving a false positive result than a Covid-19 diagnostic test processed by a laboratory.’

The experiment has been condemned by some, including former deputy Mary Lowe.

On Twitter she questioned the school’s decision to try out the tests during a pandemic.

‘I’m surprised parents agreed for their child to be used in an “experiment” involving Covid from a “guest” speaker, resulting in fear amongst students and parents, or maybe they weren’t asked?

‘Lots of questions, what checks and approvals were taken beforehand including from public health?’

However, another user commented: ‘Children do scientific experiments every day in schools and regularly have guest speakers.

‘I don’t know what you are suggesting?

‘That every single lesson and speaker requires parental consent?’

In response, principal Mr O’Brien said: ‘The science department routinely carries out experiments with senior school students involving saliva samples, and although this was a new experiment, it fell within the same category.

‘All students were over 16 and participation in the test was optional.’

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