RINGWOOD School is taking part in a rapid coronavirus testing programme which could see the end of self-isolation for large numbers of pupils.

It has been invited by NHS Test and Trace and the University of Oxford to participate in urgent research into the effectiveness of a new screening test.

And testing gets under way with staff and sixth form volunteers on Thursday this week.

The tests will also be monitored by scientists at Public Health England, Porton Down.

A spokesman for the Parsonage Barn Lane school said: "Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have been working hard to identify a quick, easy and reliable test for Covid-19 that can provide results much more quickly and effectively than the current NHS test.

"If it is shown to work successfully, it may become the standard test that all schools use both to identify whether members of a school community are infectious or, as importantly, give reassurance that they are Covid-free at the point in time that the test is taken."

The test can be carried out regularly and return results in a very short period of time.

Similar tests are being finalised that could be used in universities, workplaces, airports, and sports matches.

The spokesman added: "After months spent narrowing down the best options, the scientists have asked us, along with some other schools, to be part of a trial to see how well their test works within a school setting.

"The test itself uses a nasal swab. The process of testing involves a soft cotton bud being rubbed around the inside of the nostril three or four times. It is very quick and will not be uncomfortable. Public Health England recommend this approach because they think it will be easier for people to do than a throat swab, while still being effective."

If a test result is positive – either a strong positive or two consecutive weak positives – a further additional swab sample will be taken for further testing using a ‘gold standard’ test, which will be sent to Public Health England’s laboratories whilst the person and their household isolate in line with government guidance whilst they await the result and further guidance.

For staff and students identified as a close contact of a positive case going forward, it is now possible to offer an alternative to self-isolation for those taking part in the pilot.

As long as the close contacts have tested negative on the same day as the positive case, have no symptoms and agree to be re-tested at least every two days for a period of 14 days they can stay in school.