Majority of schools have pupils isolating ‘due to Covid-19 test access problems’

The Canary

More than four in five schools in England currently have children not in class because they cannot access a coronavirus (Covid-19) test, a survey suggests.

Time to “take charge”

The majority (94%) of schools have pupils who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus this term – and more than three in four (78%) have had staff who had to self-isolate, according to a poll by the school leaders union NAHT.

Nearly nine in 10 (87%) have children not attending school because they are waiting for test results, while 82% of schools have pupils at home because they cannot access a test to rule out coronavirus. The findings come after organisations representing heads and governors, including the NAHT, have implored Boris Johnson to “take charge” of tackling the testing delays to ensure schools remain open.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, has warned that children’s education is being “needlessly disrupted” by a testing system which is in “chaos”.

Back to school

One in seven (14%) of schools have had confirmed cases of coronavirus since they began welcoming back students for the autumn term, the poll suggests. The survey, of 736 school leaders over the past 24 hours, found that three in five (60%) have staff staying home because they are waiting for test results. Nearly half (45%) of schools have staff not at work because they cannot access a test to rule out coronavirus.

Of the schools who have had to send pupils home due to suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus this term, nearly three in four (70%) have only sent home individual pupils. 7% have had to send home whole classes, 5% reported sending home whole year groups, and 4% sent home small groups of pupils.

Only 0.3% reported having to close their school, the survey suggests.

Needless disruption

Whiteman said:

Tests for coronavirus need to be readily available for everyone so that pupils and staff who get negative results can get back into school quickly.

But we are hearing the same thing repeatedly from our members across the country – chaos is being caused by the inability of staff and families to successfully get tested when they display symptoms.

This means schools are struggling with staffing, having to send groups of students home to isolate or close classes, and ultimately that children’s education is being needlessly disrupted.

Whiteman added:

It is in no way unpredictable or surprising that the demand for coronavirus tests would spike when schools reopened more widely this term.

And yet the system is in chaos.

The Government has failed schools and children.

It is unacceptable for this to happen when schools have put so much effort into getting their part of the plan right, and when pupils have had to endure so much uncertainty and disruption already.

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Unfortunately, students not in school are not necessarily isolating at home. How many are out and about, spreading COVID to their friends, their friends’ families, and beyond?
      If the government’s aim is to give the country the christmas present they feel it deserves, some of the worst death rates in the world and the total collapse of the NHS, they could succeed.

    2. I was a teacher union member for 39 years and workplace representative for long periods within that time. Such union ‘surveys’ of members are, frankly, bollocks. They are responded to by very few of the membership and mostly those with idiosyncratic axes to grind, and the questions are worded to elicit the responses wanted to make some political point.

      There is a serious concern about the test and trace system in England, particularly the availability of testing. Focus on that rather than the spurious claims of a few trade union members acting in their own narrow petty interests.

      1. I take your point about surveys, but as for testing and tracing, I just bumped into this:

        “Tory-linked firm Serco has landed another £45 million to deliver the UK’s ‘failing’ COVID response … This is a company that was fined more than £100 million in the last decade for fraud, false accounting and service failures … The reported Serco contract with the value of £45m is for provision of test sites …Serco’s separate £108m COVID contact tracing contract – the value of which could rise to £432m if it continues through to next year – allows Serco to “refine” its own service level agreements, oversee its own monitoring, and also rules out automatic penalties for underperformance … Health minister Edward Argar was formerly head of public affairs at Serco, while the company’s chief executive Rupert Soames is the brother of former Tory MP and party grandee Nicholas Soames.” (G4S, infamous for being unable to organise security at the London Olympics, providing fewer than 6,000 guards despite a contract to provide more than 10,000, leading to police and military having to step in and do their job, also has its snout in the trough.)
        https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/serco-lands-another-45m-for-failing-covid-test-and-trace-scheme/

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.