Coronavirus: NEU demands virus testing for all school staff

Britain’s largest teaching union has demanded coronavirus testing of all staff working in schools.

The National Education Union has also insisted staff who are vulnerable themselves or have vulnerable family members at home should not have to attend school.

The union also wants “coherent rotas for those who continue to go to their place of work.”

Schools across England have today reopened only for pupils considered vulnerable and the children of key workers who cannot keep them at home.

But some believe the government has been too slow to respond to schools’ concerns about their preparedness for the new system.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the national education union, said: “We are concerned that government advice for schools is not currently strong enough. We have got to get on the front foot if we are to slow transmission and flatten the curve.

“This means testing of all education staff, and that no one at heightened risk attends schools and colleges from today. No staff should attend who are vulnerable or would go home to family who are vulnerable. We also need to see coherent rotas for those who continue to go to their place of work.”

Boris Johnson announced last week raised the possibility of a rapid rollout of an antibody test, which would make it easier for people to find out if they have the virus.

Virus testing “must be available to schools that remain open”, said Bousted. “With so many parents on the key worker list, this means an extensive effort is required to make sure every school can access the tests. This is no time for half-measures.”

She also said that “intensified cleanliness and minimised exposure rapidly become the norm in those schools which are having to remain open”, because even children without symptoms could be carrying the virus.

“We are liaising with the Department for Education to ensure action is taken on all of these points,” Bousted said.

“If we are to help the community, which we should, we need maximum protection from the government.”