Teachers fifth on priority list for testing, but no place for school pupils

Teachers with Covid-19 symptoms will be fifth on the government’s priority list for testing, it has been announced.

But school pupils do not feature anywhere on the list, despite a pledge by ministers that they too would be given priority.

We are continuing to improve the testing system to ensure teaching staff can get priority access when they have symptoms

The Department of Health and Social Care has published the list of roles that will be prioritised for swab tests as the government attempts to reach its target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

“As we look towards winter, we have set out below those who we intend to test, as well as how and why we will test them. The exact allocation of tests across these key areas is dynamic and may change, as it is based on the latest evidence on risk and demand,” the department said.

The government has said the list is already being used to decide who gets tests.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told the House of Commons today that teaching staff with symptoms would be prioritised ahead of the general public “so we can keep schools and classes open”.

However, those working in clinical care, care homes, the NHS and those involved in outbreaks and surveillance studies will be prioritised ahead of teachers.

According to the DHSC’s list, testing for teaching staff will be prioritised “where it is needed to keep schools and classes open”.

“We are continuing to improve the testing system to ensure teaching staff can get priority access when they have symptoms,” the guidance states.

“Those who test negative can return to work, ensuring our schools can remain open.”

But the absence of school pupils from the list is likely to raise eyebrows.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, told the BBC on September 1 that pupils, like staff, would be “given priority in the testing regime”.

Hancock told the Commons the list “will make sure tests are allocated where they’re needed most.

“First to support acute clinical care, second to support and protect people in care homes, third NHS staff including GPs and pharmacists, fourth targeting testing for outbreak management on surveillance studies, fifth testing for teaching staff with symptoms so we can keep schools and classes open, and then the general public when they have symptoms, prioritising those in areas of high incidence.”

The DHSC was approached for comment.