The Ministry of Defence is supporting a request from The Department for Education and Local Education Agencies to provide personnel to provide advisory support for pupil testing and training. As part of this activity and Air Resilience Unit (RU) has been operating in the East of England, as one of a number of military RU.
The supporting RAF personnel are under command of the Air Resilience Unit (RU) and are drawn from RAF stations across the East of England region where the Air Resilience Unit is operating, providing support remotely from home base locations as follows:
- RAF Coningsby
- RAF Halton
- RAF Honington
- RAF High Wycombe
- RAF Marham
- RAF Northolt
- RAF Waddington
Personnel have been drawn from a range of trades across the RAF, including RAF Regiment Gunner, Mechanical Transport, Supply, Personnel Support, Air Operations and Aircraft Engineer.
There are 812 schools in the East of England area of responsibility for the Air RU. This gives a school pupil population of 625 000 secondary pupils in scope of support, with a further 94 000 teaching staff.
RAF personnel have initially offered virtual support remotely to schools, providing remote advice and assistance by phone. Personnel have then moved to assist at school locations when requested by the schools, should they need additional guidance. The main assistance provided has been to help schools test their plans and confirm that they work in accordance with Government and Department for Education guidelines.
In addition, RAF Reserve personnel with schools experience have been used in an unusual but innovative way to help RAF personnel fully understand school requirements, to make sure that our military experience gained in the community testing activities across England can be contextualised to provide advice and guidance to meet specific school needs.
Wing Commander Raimondo, Officer Commanding of the Air Resilience Unit said:
The RAF has provided support to schools in the East of England as part of a request for military support from the Department of Education. We have sought to do all that we can as a military Unit to help the schools in the region prepare for delivery of COVID-19 testing of pupils and teachers. We’ve been able to offer the lessons of our experience gained from Community Testing and share this with the local schools, as part of the national effort against the COVID virus.
Corporal Smith, based at RAF Honington, has been providing support to schools preparing for COVID testing. Corporal Smith said:
It has been good to be able to help local schools as they prepare to undertake COVID testing. We’ve been able to use the experience members of the team got from the RAF support to Community Testing in other parts of the country and help to explain how to lay out testing areas and use the Lateral Flow Test devices.
Senior Aircraftswoman Smith, an RAF Reservist who works as a Deputy-Headteacher in her civilian job, was used to help RAF personnel better understand the school environment and requirements. She said:
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help the RAF personnel employed in the Air Resilience Unit understand the school environment, as there are many specific challenges and requirements which they may not have immediately known of or understood. This has helped the RAF RU personnel offer advice and support from their COVID-19 Community Testing experiences, but tailored to school needs.
Mrs Stephanie Neill, Head of School, Philip Morant School and College, Colchester.
Working with the RAF team enabled us to review the processes we had put in place. We were able to explore the different testing scenarios and how we would amend our testing facilities for different needs. The team were both challenging and encouraging: recognising the excellent work already put in place by our staff and yet helping us see areas where we could develop even further. The emphasis on working alongside the school with solutions that worked for the school was always present and working with an independent team of experts was extremely valuable. We are very grateful for the support.