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Schools struggling to cope with ‘out of control’ Covid-19 testing issues, unions warn

SCHOOLS are struggling to cope with “increasingly out of control” Covid-19 testing issues, teaching unions warned yesterday.

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach called on the government to prioritise the education sector for the allocation of tests in the light of the challenges.

In a letter to Schools Minister Nick Gibb, Dr Roach said the union was aware of around 600 pupils being told to self-isolate in one local authority area, and that the number was growing.

The union leader told Mr Gibb that pupils sent home with symptoms did not know when or where they would be able to access a test.

Delays in testing had meant that some students and staff who were part of a school “bubble” were not being isolated even where there were multiple suspected cases.

“This is putting at risk the health and safety of others within the school and within the local community,” Dr Roach said.

Organisations representing school leaders and governors have also called on PM Boris Johnson to “take charge” of tackling the delays in obtaining Covid-19 tests to ensure that schools remain open.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), school leaders’ union NAHT and the National Governance Association have written to Mr Johnson to express concern about testing.

The letter warns of a “deep sense of foreboding about the potential for the system to become ever-more riddled with delays” as more cases emerge, which would be “increasingly disruptive to children’s education.”

The ASCL said it had received 264 emails from schools and colleges with symptomatic staff and pupils who were struggling to access tests.

Hundreds of schools have been hit with Covid-19 cases since it became compulsory for pupils to return.

Some have closed their doors days after reopening while others have told whole year groups and classes to self-isolate for two weeks following confirmed cases.

A government spokeswoman said: “Testing capacity is the highest it has ever been, but we are seeing a significant demand for tests. It is vital that children and school staff only get a test if they develop coronavirus symptoms.”

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