Rapid testing pilots begin in NL education sector
Today, 18 January, the first rapid testing pilots in the education sector in the Netherlands have begun. At about 20 secondary schools across the Netherlands, rapid tests will be used for teachers and classmates of a pupil who has tested positive for Covid-19. This concerns pupils who can physically go to school at that moment, such as exam pupils as well as vulnerable pupils. At Rijksuniversiteit Groningen – RUG and Hanzehogeschool Groningen, students are being tested before they start their exams. The tests are intended to ensure that students receive on-site in-person education as often as possible.
At RUG, a negative test result means that the exam can be taken on location, and if the test result is positive, the exam can be taken online or also on location at a later date. Participation in this pilot is not compulsory. This pilot is the first in a longer series of pilots with different set-ups in order to learn how quick tests can contribute to more in-person education in secondary vocational education, higher vocational education and tertiary education.
Students in senior secondary vocational education (mbo), higher vocational education (hbo), and university education (wo) would naturally like to have more education at the institution and on the campus as soon as possible. The Kabinet also considers this to be of great importance.
Minister van Engelshoven:
"Students are now missing out on the broader education that you develop in the interaction between students and between student and teacher. Only online education does not benefit the quality of education and student welfare. But with more physical education, it is of course of the utmost importance that this can take place in a responsible manner."
For this reason, a number of pilots are now being started in the mbo, hbo and wo sectors, in which it is being investigated how more in-person education can be made possible step by step. Perhaps a little more in-person education will then be possible in the current academic year, and the pilots should also help to ensure that the new academic year can start off as 'normally' as possible. The pilots are examining the added value of quick tests in combination with other instruments, such as protective screens or the adjustment of walking routes throughout campuses and schools.
At the moment, the pilots are still based on the basic rules, but if the situation allows, the intention is to examine in the pilots for senior secondary vocational education (MBO), higher vocational education (HBO) and university education (VWO) under which conditions, for instance, the distance rule could be abandoned in a controlled trial setting.
The Rijksuniversiteit Groningen is starting the pilot together with Hanzehogeschool Groningen and ROC Noorderpoort. Pilots will also be started at other universities next month, and at senior secondary vocational education institutes and universities of applied sciences.
Starting this week, both pupils and teachers can undergo rapid testing at the initial participating schools. These are teachers and classmates who have been in the same room as an infected pupil or teacher for at least one hour. At other schools participating in the pilot, pupils and teachers are given a PCR test at a regular GGD test site. Both options will be used to determine how the testing policy can be more broadly applied to all schools from approximately mid-February onwards.
It is being considered whether the rapid tests can also be used for staff of primary schools for reasons of educational continuity. At the moment, there are no plans to test pupils in primary schools because they are much less contagious. If research shows otherwise, this will be looked into again.