Schools get self-tests, but ‘only works when most parents cooperate’

Education Minister Arie Slob announced today that primary schools will be sent self-tests from Monday. It is about 2.4 million tests, enough to have all children in groups 6, 7 and 8 tested twice a week for two weeks. But is that enough to prevent major outbreaks in schools?

Epidemiologists and primary school directors are wondering whether self-tests are the solution. Parents are going to take the tests, but cannot be required to test their child. โ€œIts uncontrollable. We can only advise it, parents have to do it,โ€ says Janneke Oosterman, director of primary school Tamarinde in Zaandam.

And that makes the measure less effective, says epidemiologist and behavioral expert Esther Metting. โ€œIts not working enough. It would only work if most of the parents cooperate with this. Otherwise, youll still have infected children in the classroom.โ€

โ€œDont test in schoolโ€

Oosterman does not see taking the test within school. โ€œThen you come to the autonomy of parents.โ€ Minister Slob is also not in favour of testing in schools, because children who test positive are already in the school anyway.

Jeroen Appel, director of primary school Blijvliet in Rotterdam is happy that the self-tests will be delivered next week. โ€œThats faster than when the teachers had to be tested in the previous wave. Then the tests came when most teachers were already vaccinated.โ€

Appel is also not going to force parents to take the test. Parents who are afraid that their child will no longer be allowed to go to school if they dont test their child, he reassures. โ€œThat fear is alive. But Im debunking that fear. Because Im not going to refuse children.โ€

No support test preschoolers

What also makes testing a lot less watertight is the fact that only the top three groups need to test. The OMT recommends that all children of primary school age be tested. The fact that this has not been taken over, according to Minister Slob, has not to do with a shortage of self-tests. โ€œNo, its not just a capacity problem. It is a conscious choice because we have seen that the infection was really the highest in this age group.โ€

Epidemiologist Esther Metting thinks that ideally you test all children, but that simply there is no support for this. In addition, it is more complicated: โ€œYou can explain it less well with very young children.โ€ Still, in the age group of four to eight years, there is also quite a number of infections.

Slob believes that the measure is part of the solution. He says to Nieuwsuur that the combination with, for example, staggered breaks, the snot calling policy (child with complaints must go home) and the basic measures can help. โ€œAll in all, it contributes to reducing the spread of the virus. And then we can also ask for education, we also keep them open, that they contribute.โ€

The school directors from Rotterdam and Zaandam hope very much, they would like to keep their school open. However, it can help to oblige the measures, instead of advising, thinks director Oosterman of primary school Tamarinde. She now has to have an occasional discussion with parents who, for example, do not want their child to wear a face mask. โ€œIf it is mandatory, it is clear to everyone. A safe feeling for teachers too: everyone has a face mask. But having the discussion with parents as director yourself is not doing.โ€

Epidemiologist Metting sees the solution mainly in vaccinating the people from the environment of primary school children. โ€œIn any case, if a child becomes infected but the parents are vaccinated, they are less likely to get sick.โ€

If schools pass through stock tests in two weeks, they can order new self-tests from the ministry.