Schools struggle with ‘increasingly out of control’ Covid-19 testing issues
Schools are struggling to cope with a lack of Covid-19 tests for pupils and staff as the situation is becoming “increasingly out of control”, a teaching union leader has warned.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, has called on the Government to prioritise the education sector for the allocation of tests in light of the challenges, PA reports.
In a letter to the schools minister, Dr Roach said the union had heard of approximately 600 pupils being told to self-isolate in one local authority area and he said the “number is growing”.
The union leader told Nick Gibb that pupils who have been sent home with symptoms are “facing uncertainty” about when or where they will be able to access a test.
He warned that the delays in testing have meant some students and staff who are part of a “bubble” within a school are not being isolated even where there are multiple suspected cases.
“This is putting at risk the health and safety of others within the school and within the local community,” Dr Roach said.
Three organisations representing school leaders and governors have also called on Boris Johnson to “take charge” of tackling the delays in obtaining Covid-19 tests to ensure schools remain open.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), school leaders’ union NAHT and the National Governance Association (NGA) have written to the Prime Minister to express concern about testing.
The letter warns of a “deep sense of foreboding about the potential for the system to become ever-more riddled with delays” as more cases emerge, which would be “increasingly disruptive to children’s education”.
The ASCL said it has received 264 emails on the test and trace system from schools and colleges which said they had symptomatic staff and/or pupils who were struggling to access tests.
“Schools are left in a position of either leaving close contacts of the infected person in school while they wait for guidance, or making a public health call themselves and deciding on who to send home. This places leaders in an impossible situation,” the letter adds.
Schools have been hit with Covid-19 cases since it became compulsory for pupils to return.
Some have closed their doors days after reopening while others have told whole year groups and classes to self-isolate for two weeks following confirmed cases.
NASUWT members are “expressing serious concerns about the failure” of the testing system and the impact on schools, the letter to Mr Gibb says.
Dr Roach said: “In particular, areas where additional local restrictions have been introduced due to the increase in the R-number are now unable to cope with demand for tests.
“Teachers, support staff and children and young people are unable to access tests where they have Covid-19 symptoms.
“Employers are struggling to deal with the implications and consequences.”