Viral letter on Covid-19 testing in Liverpool school was real but has been withdrawn

10 November 2020
What was claimed

A letter sent by a Liverpool school claimed consent wasn’t needed to test children for Covid-19 during a city-wide testing scheme.

Our verdict

While the letter was genuine, it was withdrawn days after being sent by the school and replaced by a new letter saying consent was required. The council says the first letter was drafted without input from its public health teams.

A number of posts on Facebook show an image of a letter purportedly sent out by Broadgreen International School in Liverpool about Covid-19 testing that will take place within the school without parental permission being needed. 

It is correct that testing will take place at the school as part of the city-wide scheme that is currently underway. However, while the letter did come from the school, it has now been withdrawn as Liverpool City Council said it contained errors and replaced with a new letter which contains different details, namely that children will be eligible for a test if parental consent is provided

What did the original letter say?

The original letter, signed by the headteacher and published on the school’s website on 6 November, said that the army would be carrying out testing in the school. It added that all children would be identified by a unique barcode so that their tests and results could be identified. 

It then said: “If positive results are received the school will secure the individual concerned and in the case of students inform parents/ carer immediately we will then operate our usual process of identifying others who may have been in close or direct contact for our self isolation system will be put in place.”

The letter adds: “Under normal circumstances parental permission is sought for the testing of children, however under these very challenging and unprecedented circumstances that is not possible, therefore we would ask that if you wish to exclude your child from this test please do so in writing to me first thing on Monday morning.”

The letter also says testing is due to begin in the school on 9 November.

The new letter

However, on Sunday 8 November a new letter from Liverpool City Council was posted on the school’s website with a very different message. The school said this replaced the information sent home on Friday 6 November.

That letter says: “All children aged between 11 and 18 years old, where the appropriate recorded consent is provided, are eligible for the test. We are inviting the young people in our city to take part in this process.” 

A consent form is also included with the letter. It also adds that hard copies of the letter and consent form would be handed out in the school on Monday 9 November to be returned the following day.

The letter goes on to say if consent is received “pupils will be tested twice over a period of about 10 days for COVID-19 as part of a national pilot… Anyone who tests positive, using either a lateral flow test or an existing swab test, must self-isolate along with their household immediately. Those who test negative will need to continue to follow all national guidance.” 

The school’s website currently says: “At this point in time, we are uncertain of the start date for this. Details will be shared as soon as possible”.

Liverpool City Council told Full Fact that its public health team had no input in the original letter sent out by Broadgreen International School. It also told us that a letter for parents drafted by the council was sent out to 13 schools in the area over the weekend. This is the letter now on Broadgreen International School’s website.

The council also pointed us to a statement from them in the Liverpool Express. It said: “The council is working with partners including public health, [and] the school nursing service to facilitate the voluntary programme within schools.

“As with the mass testing programme, the military will be providing logistical support in setting up and running the tests.”

A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council told the Guardian that: “We didn’t have sight of this letter before it was sent to parents… Due to inaccuracies within it, it has now been withdrawn by the school.

“We are working closely with schools and our partners involved in the mass testing programme to make sure the process in schools is as smooth as possible.”

We asked Broadgreen International School for comment. We will update this piece if it responds.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as missing context because while the letter was genuine it was withdrawn. A new letter says Covid-19 testing for pupils will only be done with consent.

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