Department for Education staff have been offered £1,000 bonuses to work over Christmas on preparations for mass testing in schools, it has emerged.
The news of bonuses for civil servants is likely to anger school staff who have been expected by the government to oversee test and trace duties during holidays, including the Christmas break – without extra pay.
School leaders are also likely to face working over the holidays following the eleventh-hour announcement of mass testing in schools to start immediately after the Christmas break.
Screenshots of a call for volunteers sent to civil servants have been shared on Twitter by Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall.
The DfE confirmed to Schools Week tonight that it would use “in-year staff awards” to facilitate additional shifts from volunteers.
It is understood the Department needs around 200 of its staff to work over the break following the announcement that testing will begin across England in January.
“Delivering staggered coronavirus testing to all secondary schools and colleges in England to help fight Covid is a vital task,” a spokesperson said.
“That’s why, to support the rapid roll out of testing, we are looking for volunteers within the department.”
The announcement of the testing so close to the end of term has prompted a fierce backlash in the schools community, with unions warning the plan is “inoperable” for most schools.
NEW: I understand DfE are offering civil servants a £1000 bonus to work over Christmas to get school testing working. But as things stand, no similar compensation being offered to Heads or other teaching staff. pic.twitter.com/AsHAVm2Cth
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) December 18, 2020
The government has been at pains to point out that its own staff – along with personnel from the armed forces – will be on hand to support the testing efforts.
When it first announced the testing programme on Tuesday, the DfE said there was “no expectation that school and college staff will need to work on this over the Christmas break”.
But when asked about the matter on the Today Programme this morning, Nick Gibb, the schools minister, appeared to suggest leaders would have to put in some hours over the break.
“This is a national effort. It won’t just be the schools alone doing this. We’re working across government with the Department of Health, with Test and Trace.”