Commenting on wider plans for testing in schools from January, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:   

"Has the Government learned nothing from the mishandling of every other aspect of its policy in relation to Covid-19 and education?  

“Of course mass testing is important in bringing the virus under control in schools and colleges. The NEU has been calling for wider testing for months but plans for the way to do this should have been thought through much earlier this term, and fully consulted on with the profession.   

"This announcement gives almost zero notice for unions to assess the plans, or for schools to implement them.  

"The Government’s suggestion that the preparation for the roll-out of testing should happen this week is ridiculous. It will anger school leaders and their colleagues who have constantly been treated as an afterthought by this Government.  

"Schools would return in January unprepared in reality and with a significant build-up of cases from the Christmas relaxation. 

"A much more sensible position, which we urge the Government to adopt, would be that the first week, at least, of learning in January should be online, with schools using that time to train staff on using the testing materials and protocols. That extra week of children being at home would suppress virus levels so that far fewer children had to be sent home when testing begins. 

"We also need to see the studies showing how a system of serial testing, in which close contacts are kept at school and tested daily, has worked as a strategy to keep virus levels low. It is reasonable to suppose that children are transmitting inside and outside school, so only testing close contacts may miss a significant percentage of positive cases.  

"This rushed introduction is not a good starting point for building the confidence of parents or staff." 

ENDS 

Editor's note

DfE guidance, 15 December.