Will schools ever go back before virus is beaten? Teachers warn mass testing plan to get classes running again is in ‘chaos’ amid demands for ALL primary and secondary schools be closed like in London
- National Education Union stated they were meeting with their Executive today
- Joint general secretary of the NEU Dr Mary Bousted called for all schools to close
- Schools are converting art studios, sports halls in order to set up mass-testing
Teachers have warned the mass testing plan to get classes running again is in ‘chaos’ amid demands for all primary and secondary schools to be closed like in London.
The National Education Union stated that their Executive was meeting today after calling for all schools across the country to be closed for the start of the new term.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union which has more than 450,000 members, has called for all primary and secondary schools to be closed to allow a mass-testing system to be set up and led by public health bodies.
She told the BBC’s Today Programme: ‘In secondary schools for 1,000 pupils you will need about 21 volunteers to do this testing as teachers can’t do it and the support staff can’t do it because they will be teaching and supporting children’s learning.’
Referring to school closures, Dr Bousted said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that we keep having these U-turns, these last-minute decisions, where parents don’t know where they are, where teachers and school staff just don’t know where they are.
‘The only other thing I would have to say is we don’t see this happening in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland – we don’t see these U-turns, these furious reversals in policy and that makes for a much calmer environment for both teachers and education professionals.’
Dr Bousted also explained how pupils in secondary schools are put together in year group bubbles of up to 240 with no social distancing, leading to the transmission of the virus.
Dave Lee-Allan, a headteacher in Suffolk, expressed his frustration that teachers were not being prioritised for Covid-19 vaccines.
Dr Mary Bousted (pictured), joint general secretary of the National Education Union which has more than 450,000 members, has called for all primary and secondary schools in England to be closed to allow a mass-testing system to be set up and led by public health bodies
Social distancing signs displayed at Coldfall Primary School in Muswell Hill, London, today as Covid cases across the capital city have been putting rising pressure on the NHS
The National Education Union tweeted today: ‘Our Executive is meeting this morning and we will announce new guidance shortly afterwards’
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘It seems highly frustrating to me that we’re constantly being told by the Government that keeping children in school is a national priority and that we are key workers.
‘Yet apparently we don’t qualify, along with other key workers, to get early access to the vaccine.
‘It just seems another common-sense decision that could help belay the fears and increase the safety of staff, and this is in primary and secondary.’
Meanwhile Sam Williamson, a headteacher in Bristol, told BBC Breakfast her secondary school was prepared for the rollout of mass testing as supplies are due to arrive on Monday, after senior staff had ‘three or four’ days off for Christmas.
She said: ‘The basic plan is in place and we will actually be ready to go as long as tests arrive on time and we’ve got enough volunteers which we think we have.’
Ms Williamson said her school’s plan would be to start testing Years 11 and 14 on Thursday and Friday of the following week.
Asked about sourcing volunteers, she continued: ‘We actually put messages out to our school community before we broke up for the break, we’re very lucky that we’ve got quite a number of part-time members of teaching staff and part-time members of pastoral staff, most of whom have come forward and offered additional days, so they’re already DBS checked so that puts us in quite a fortunate position to be able to meet that need.
‘We’ve also had some ex-members of staff come forward who will need to be DBS checked but are willing and able to come and join us.’
It comes after Dr Bousted also slammed the government’s ‘recklessness’ in looking out for teachers and children’s health and branded it ‘inexplicable’.
The National Education Union tweeted today: ‘Our Executive is meeting this morning and we will announce new guidance shortly afterwards.
A tweet from the National Education Union today, saying: ‘We have thousands of reps from all the country on our briefing right now. We must #MakeSchoolsSafe to #ProtectCommunities’
It comes as school face difficulties over setting up mass-testing which includes finding volunteers after Christmas (file image)
All primary schools in London will now close for the start of the new term after the government U-turned on its decision to keep some open despite rising Covid cases
‘Over 10,000 members have registered for our Zoom briefings this weekend and tomorrow morning’s 11am briefing will be live streamed on social media. #MakeSchoolsSafe #ProtectCommunities.’
The NEU added: ‘We must #MakeSchoolsSafe so we can #protectcommunities. Members please register for our emergency briefings and tomorrow’s will be live streamed on social media. We will be announcing the decision of the Executive later.’
It comes as school face difficulties over setting up mass-testing which includes finding volunteers after Christmas.
In a bid to prepare mass-testing, schools are converting art studios, sports halls and setting up marquees in playgrounds which are potentially set to be manned by alumni volunteers, according to The Times.
The Department for Education has told all secondary schools in England to focus on setting up lateral flow testing which pupils are expected to take themselves overseen by volunteers.
In a lateral flow test, fluid is taken in a swab of the nose or the throat and applied to a piece of absorbent paper that will change colour to indicate whether or not the virus is present, taking just 15 to 30 minutes to produce a result.
The situation is not expected to become clear until the next review date of January 13.
Gavin Williamson had this week released a list of London primary schools in coronavirus ‘hotspots’ that would stay shut for two weeks after the start of term next week.
The list did not include areas where Covid rates are high such as Haringey whose leaders said they would defy the government and support schools that decided to close.
Under the Government’s initial plan, schools in the City of London and Kingston were set to reopen but those in 22 other London boroughs would have remained closed.
The leaders of Camden, Islington, Greenwich, Haringey, Harrow, Hackney and Lewisham boroughs, and the City of London, said in a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson: ‘We ask in the strongest terms that your recommendation is urgently reviewed and our primary schools are added to the list of those advised to move learning online.’
The action prompted an emergency Cabinet Office meeting today where they decided to abandon the original plans and order the remaining area to close their primary schools.
The move is expected to see similar arrangements to the spring lockdown when schools continued to accept children from key worker families but moved to online learning for the vast majority of pupils.
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