As pupils across the country return to the classroom, Benenden School has installed a rapid Covid-19 testing machine that will also be shared with other schools.
The SAMBA II device, which is being used in hospitals, gives results in 90 minutes and Benenden’s machine will be used by two other schools for the benefit of the local community: The John Wallis Church of England Academy in Ashford and Benenden Primary School.
Benenden Headmistress Samantha Price said: “As a boarding school, we have taken extensive measures to keep the girls and staff safe and having this device at school is an important part of our pandemic response.
“We are delighted to be able to help two other local schools by making this device available for their staff to operate too. We are of course all reopening in incredibly uncertain times but we are all as prepared as we possibly can be – and this device will give added peace of mind to families.”
As a boarding school, Benenden is operating as a series of ‘household bubbles’ in which year groups stay together in their boarding house and their lessons. Being able to get the results within 90 minutes will greatly reduce the disruption to the school community, particularly during the flu season when girls are likely to be displaying symptoms that could be attributed to flu or Covid.
The SAMBA II, which tests samples taken from the patient’s nose and back of the throat, has been shown to have a 98.7% accuracy when detecting Covid.
Benenden will use the device to test any girls or staff who display symptoms, as well as conducting random testing of the student population to pick up any asymptomatic transmission.
Key medical and senior staff at Benenden have been fully trained in how to operate the equipment, along with staff from John Wallis and Benenden Primary, who will use the machine themselves to test swabs from their own pupils and staff.
Benenden Primary School Executive Headteacher Lindsay Roberts said: “We are delighted Benenden School has given us the opportunity of using the SAMBA II in the event of any possible Covid-19 cases within our school.
“Due to the quick test results, it gives reassurance in the event of any staff or pupils who are displaying symptoms of Covid-19.”
Damian McBeath, Principal of The John Wallis Church of England Academy, said: “Our partnership with Benenden School has always been a strength of The John Wallis Church of England Academy.
“As a direct result of this partnership we are fortunate enough to have access to the SAMBA II rapid testing machine, which at this time is absolutely invaluable.
“Responding quickly to any suspected COVID-19 cases significantly reduces the risk of transmission across a bubble and is an additional layer in keeping our pupils, students, staff and the wider community safe.
“For individual pupils and students with special circumstances we have planned for sample tests to be carried out, providing their families with additional comfort and confidence during what could be a potentially anxious period. We have had an extremely positive response from parents about this opportunity.”