Headteachers have reported that pupils at more than four in five schools are isolating because they can’t get access to a Covid test.
A survey of 736 school leaders by the leadership union NAHT found that 82 per cent of schools have children currently not attending because they cannot access a test to rule out Covid-19, while 87 per cent have children not in attendance because they are waiting for their test results.
Tests for covid-19 need to be readily available for everyone so that pupils and staff who get negative results can get back into school quickly
Meanwhile, 45 per cent of schools report they have staff currently not at work because they cannot get a test to rule out Covid.
The survey also found that 14 per cent of respondents have had confirmed cases of Covid-19 in their schools since the start of term.
The Financial Times reported yesterday that scientists advising the government have proposed a two-week national lockdown in October to coincide with the half term break.
The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in England has risen sharply in the past few weeks from less than 2,000 on September 1 to over 3,000 last week.
Paul Whiteman, the NAHT’s general secretary, said “chaos is being caused by the inability of staff and families to successfully get tested when they display symptoms”.
“Tests for covid-19 need to be readily available for everyone so that pupils and staff who get negative results can get back into school quickly,” he added.
Whiteman last week wrote to the Prime Minister with mounting concerns about the impact the lack of access to covid-19 tests is having on schools.
There’s growing unrest over the government’s handling of a recent spike in demand for tests, which test and trace boss Baroness Harding claimed yesterday had been unforeseen.
Schools Week revealed last night how a coding glitch caused by the government’s “failure” to carry out proper software testing is further hampering attempts to get tests.
The NAHT this week warned that the lack of testing capacity is also affecting staff – with 45 per cent of schools reporting they had staff currently not at work because they cannot get a test to rule out Covid, and 60 per cent with staff staying home awaiting the results of a test,
Overall, 94 per cent of schools have children who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of covid-19 this term, and 78 per cent have staff who have had to self-isolate at all this term.
The survey also found that when pupils have suspected or confirmed cases of Covid, most schools (70 per cent) have sent home individual pupils only, while only 7 per cent have had to send home whole classes. Five per cent reported sending home whole year groups, and 4 per cent sent home small groups of pupils. Just 0.3 per cent reported having to close their school.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has urged teachers and parents to “look at the guidance” from Public Health England and Test and Trace, insisting schools did not have to send whole “bubbles” home unless a child tested positive who had been in contact with all other members.
“If somebody tests positive who’s been in contact with the rest of their bubble then the rest of the bubble has to self isolate,” he told MPs earlier this week.
Current guidance for schools, which is endorsed by Public Health England, states that in the event of a positive case, schools must work with local health protection teams and “send home those people who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive”