Commenting on the Department for Education’s decision to pause testing in schools and colleges, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“This is yet another example of the Government's dispiriting habit of refusing to admit error, even when it u-turns.  Parents, staff and pupils will be confused by this policy reversal.

“The roll out of this testing system was a major part of the Department for Education's message to schools and colleges in the days before Christmas, giving them scarcely any notice to prepare. In the event, schools and colleges were closed - again at the eleventh hour, and after school leaders had given up time over the break to prepare a testing programme, which is now in tatters.

“We have been pressing for the scientific basis on which the roll out of lateral flow testing in schools was made, and this request has been ignored.

"The NEU has argued that regular testing of staff, even if the tests are far from perfect, will help pick up some asymptomatic cases that would otherwise go unnoticed.  However, our advice has been that permitting close contacts of positive cases to remain in school as an alternative to self-isolation was a reckless policy, which could help spread the virus and we have advised members to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case picked up by the school testing system. 

"We are relieved that the Government now accepts that it was wrong to introduce testing in this way, but this is not a sustainable method for policy to be developed. We need proper engagement with the profession, rather than rushed policy, to ensure that when we do emerge from lockdown there are robust measures in place to ensure Covid-security."