A government announcement on the further rollout of mass Coronavirus testing in schools across England is “imminent”, Schools Week has learned.
Organisations representing school staff have raised logistics concerns after it emerged that the government is preparing to announce a scaling up of its testing of staff, pupils and families in the new year.
It comes after mass-testing was rolled out to schools in parts of London, Essex and Kent last week.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said his organisation has “been in discussion with the government about a mass testing programme in schools and we expect an announcement imminently”.
While he would not comment on the detail, Barton warned any mass testing programme was “bound to throw up a number of logistical issues which would need working through”.
Stephen Morales, chief executive of the Institute of Schools Business Leadership (ISBL), questioned the timing of the announcement, warning it could leave school leaders scrambling to prepare for testing over the Christmas break.
It comes after schools were told they would have to remain “on-call” to help with contact tracing for the first six days of the Christmas holidays, prompting concerns about the wellbeing of school leaders.
“This is yet another final hour announcement where schools are expected to digest likely very complicated guidance”, said Morales.
“The rhetoric at the minute is there isn’t any expectation of school leaders to work overtime over Christmas to prepare for mass testing in the new year but we know that’s nonsense.
“If you put out guidance which is complex and requires a big logistical effort the likelihood is these very exhausted school leaders are going to work through the holiday period to get themselves up and running for January.”
To facilitate increased testing in London, Essex and Kent additional “mobile testing units” were deployed on Friday and over the weekend near school sites for staff, pupils and their families to get tested.
The government said this would provide around 75,000 additional tests over and above what’s already provided at existing test sites in the capital.
The Department for Education and Department of Health and Social Care have been contacted for comment.