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Back to School campaign encourages Secondary students and staff to get tested to minimise disruption to education over the Autumn Term

ON Thursday, 26 August 2021, the Government launched its back to School and College campaign to set out the experience that students can:- 'get back to’ from September 2021, with restrictions such as bubbles eased to allow a full return to sport, music, drama, science experiments and being with their friends. Schools and Colleges are maintaining proportionate protective measures such as:- testing, ventilation and extra hygiene precautions that help keep children and staff safe and minimise disruption to face to face education. Secondary Schools and Colleges are offering 2 tests onsite at the start of term, followed by continued regular testing at home. Students aged 16 and 17, as well as younger children aged 12 to 15, in certain eligible groups are encouraged to take up the offer of the vaccine.

The campaign features Matt Richards, gold medal winning swimmer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, who draws on his own experience of regular Covid testing as part of Team GB to encourage secondary and College students to continue testing from September 2021. The campaign also features Dr Ranj Singh, NHS consultant paediatrician and TV presenter who will reassure students and families about the return to School. Students and Teachers appear across social, digital and radio adverts talking about everything they are looking forward to during the new School term.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:- "I know the return to School and College, this September, is a huge moment for students and education staff, who have all shown enormous resilience over the past 18 months. It's the point when our focus can shift away from the disruption of Covid and on to learning, enrichment and recovery. I have every confidence that School and College staff, parents and students will continue to work together admirably, following Pragmatic measures like testing and vaccinations to minimise disruption and keep children where they belong; in the classroom."

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said:- "As students in England prepare to return to School they can look forward to a more normal year; seeing their friends, getting back to sports and activities, and of course learning. As well as offering vaccines to 16 and 17 year olds, in England, testing will remain an important part of keeping our young people safe as we go into the new School year. I urge parents to encourage their children to take regular tests, to help break chains of transmission and stop the virus spreading."

The campaign launches as pupils and students began returning to education in Leicester and Leicestershire, on Wednesday, 25 August 2021, for the start of the Autumn Term.

Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency Jenny Harries said:- "Around 1 in 3 people who have Coronavirus have no symptoms, so it is vital that we continue rapid testing in Schools to help uncover hidden cases of the virus at the start of term. We encourage children to come into School to take their 1st tests in person and then to continue testing twice a week from home. We will continue to work closely with Schools to ensure that all children can get back to the classroom and enjoy learning with less interruptions. We also encourage all children eligible for the vaccine to get their jabs when offered. Alongside testing, this will help to keep children in the classroom and their families safe."

Matt Richards, Team GB gold medal winning swimmer, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said:- "Regular testing was essential then and still is now to ensure everyone is kept safe and not spreading the virus. The same goes for School. Make sure you test before you go back, and twice weekly; even if you don’t have symptoms; so you can get back to the things you love like competitive sports and School matches."

Dr Ranj Singh, NHS consultant paediatrician and TV presenter added:- "As Covid19 becomes a virus we learn to live with, delivering face to face education, without disruption is vital to support our children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. There is a low risk of Coronavirus in children compared to other ages groups, and the benefits of education continue to outweigh the Covid health risk to children and students."

Social and digital advertising will launch today alongside wider engagement with the teaching profession and local communications. The campaign will run until early September. The launch of the campaign comes as the Government invests ₤25 million in providing carbon dioxide monitors to state funded education settings, helping them take action if they identify poor ventilation, or be reassured that ventilation is sufficient across their classrooms and staff rooms. Parents are encouraged to visit:- Gov.UK/BackToSchool for information and practical guidance to help them plan for their children’s return to School.

Leaflets explaining more about the safety measures in place will be made available over the coming days. Schools received guidance in July setting out the measures they should implement from September, including:- maintaining increased hygiene and ventilation, but removing bubbles and face coverings. The Department has also updated its guidance for Schools on how to respond if they see an increase in cases. Any reintroduction of measures such as wearing of face coverings should not be taken lightly, only be for a defined period, and should account for the detrimental impact on the delivery of education. Schools are expected to continue offering immediate access to remote education where young people test positive for the virus and need to isolate. Grant funding will be available for Schools and Colleges to claim to provide internet connections to help disadvantaged pupils who may need to learn remotely. They will be able to claim up to ₤75 over three months to provide mobile dongles or broadband routers for pupils. A small team of attendance advisers are also being recruited to work with local authorities and multi academy trusts to provide advice, guidance and support on attendance where absence rates are higher than average. Full guidance to Schools on reopening safely can be found on:- .Gov.UK.

Liverpool based DAM Health is creating the world's 1st virtual reality Covid19 Lab Training School

1 of the UK's leading technology educators and innovators CREDERSI have teamed up with Covid testing solutions company DAM Health to create the world's 1st virtual reality Covid19 lab training syllabus. The move is aimed at increasing the number of lab technicians being trained in the UK to meet a mass skills shortage and crisis. Research carried out by the Gatsby Foundation prior to Covid19 indicated that, by 2030, the UK will require a further 700,000 Lab Technicians to support the UK economy. Credersi believes that given the magnitude of the Pandemic that the figure will have potentially doubled. The company believes that by increasing the number of trained lab technicians this will help in the long run to reduce the unit cost of Covid testing over time. Properly certified training and regulation will be the key to overhauling the Covid testing industry. The collaboration will see Liverpool based DAM Health supporting Manchester headquartered Credersi to bring technology into the lab by funding the construction of a virtual and augmented reality platform in which to train the lab technicians of the future. 

The 1st course under the new collaboration will be delivered in October 2021, as an 8 week immersive programme. It will provide a truly unique laboratory technicians course, with components of science, data science, data analytical programming; to train students to extrapolate results from their work; and lab experiments built into the course syllabus. The course can be accessed from wherever the student is studying and located in the world.

Credersi's unique 8 week training programme not only equips students with the 'hard' technical skills, but also focuses on the behavioural aspects, mentoring:- 'soft' life and 'communication' skills to prepare them for any workplace environment.

1 example of the innovation being incorporated into the new course includes:- utilising a physical PCR machine, which will then be used to model and render into a 3D virtual lab. This will allow the lab technicians and students to see an animated sequence of how to conduct a PCR test and use this as part of a wider training syllabus to educate the students with an immersive and interactive training module.

The Credersi / DAM Health initiative will not only train the lab techs of the future, but the 3D virtual lab will also be taken into Schools and Colleges as part of a wider programme to educate and inspire kids into STEM subjects using technology they relate to. It will show young people what a career in science looks and feels like, inspiring them to become the next generation of scientists and lab technicians.

Tech and science educators Credersi are at the forefront of redefining a world in which students and those in adult education shape their learning of the future in a virtual campus by using immersive VR and AR technologies. The company is incubating, training and developing the digital pioneers, code breakers, vaccine developers, bio-scientists, biological and cyber defenders, software engineers and data scientists of the future.

Andy Lord, CEO and Co-Founder of Credersi, said:- "This is a really exciting project for us to team up with DAM Health and we are incredibly grateful for their support and patronage. The addition of the 3D modelling to develop a course that has elements uniquely focusing on Covid19 and PCR is a real game changer. There is a huge shortage of skilled lab technicians at the moment, and we aim to address that imbalance by injecting a new army of talented and trained lab technicians. Demand for lab technicians is outstripping supply in the market. Covid19 testing will be with us for the foreseeable future. By understanding and learning about PCR testing and how this works will enable the lab technicians of the future to be better equipped to deal with future viral epidemics and Pandemics. The Prime Minister could also take the current VAT charged on Covid19 testing and re invest this into bursaries to train the next generation of lab tech students."

Darren  Coomer is an Industry Tech Leader, Innovator and Co-Founder, at Credersi. Commenting on the virtual reality Covid19 Training School he said:- "It has been a passion of mine to take science into Schools and Colleges and inspire the next generation of brilliant minds. Covid19 has been such a big part of everyone's lives for the last 18 months, this course will teach and train lab technicians about how PCR tests are processed in the laboratory using the latest technology. But even more amazingly, when we take this into Schools and Colleges, we can show young children what a career in science looks and feels like. The high cost of PCR testing is often driven by a lack of skilled resources, so we hope our collaboration with DAM Health will help support the UK economy and travel industry by reducing the unit cost of testing over time."

DAM Health provides a wide range of Covid testing solutions to the public, corporate organisations and the sports world with in clinic testing. Recently it has signed major contracts with:- Crystal Palace football club and Rangers Football club to provide its testing services. The company has more than 65 Covid testing clinics globally with further expansion coming soon.

Liam Spence, Head Of Partnerships for DAM Health, said:- "We are delighted to have teamed up with Andy Lord, Darren Coomer and Credersi to help inspire and recruit the next generation of scientists and lab technicians. Creating a virtual world in which lab technicians can be trained to understand the process of PCR testing makes this a truly immersive experience without the need to physically enter a lab. Most importantly for DAM Health, as a leading provider of Covid testing services, our corporate and social responsibility programmes are very important to us. Our Patronage of the Credersi virtual world lab will not only help to recruit and train the lab technicians of the future, but will also inspire School children to learn more about science and technology as an exciting career, this is a fundamental part of our vision."

DAM Health’s 2 charitable initiatives include the Hope Foundation in India; which is helping to support people during the second wave of Covid and children affected by Covid; and a local initiative called Football For Change, which helps local people in Liverpool who have been affected by Covid to get jobs.

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