The Prime Minister is planning an advertising campaign to inform teachers and parents about coronavirus symptoms, it has been revealed.
As the testing fiasco continues, the government’s ad campaign will hope to stop pupils with runny noses and colds being sent home and told to get a test.
The newspaper also claims rationing plans for coronavirus tests in England will prioritise teachers.
Boris Johnson’s aides are preparing an advertising campaign aimed at teachers and parents and informing them of the symptoms of Covid in a bid to prevent overload on testing system
NAHT – the headteachers union – has released data which shows how the testing backlog is affecting schools.
The study shows four in five schools have children isolating because they can’t access a covid test.
The union collected data from 736 schools and found 82% of schools have children currently not attending because they cannot access a test to rule out covid-19.
Meanwhile 87% have children currently not attending because they are waiting for their test results.
The union also found that 45% of schools have staff currently not at work because they cannot access a test to rule out covid-19, and 60% have staff currently staying home because they are waiting for their test results.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, 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, warning that the situation is becoming increasingly disruptive and unsustainable. Today’s figures add weight to those concerns.
Mr Whiteman says: ‘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.
‘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.
Year eight pupils wear face masks as a precaution against the transmission of the novel coronavirus as they walk along a corridor of Moor End Academy in Huddersfield, Yorkshire
‘This means schools are struggling with staffing, have children missing school, and ultimately that children’s education is being needlessly disrupted.
‘The government assured us that testing would be ready for schools reopening – it was one of their own key safety requirements to have in place to enable children and teachers to return.
‘It is in no way unpredictable or surprising that the demand for covid-19 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.’
Two other unions representing headteachers and governors have also written to the Prime Minister urging him ‘take charge’ of Government efforts to ramp up testing capacity.
They say the inability of pupils an staff to get a swab have put some heads in an ‘impossible situation’ after grappling with symptomatic pupils and staff struggling to access tests.
This week it was reported that Britain’s testing fiasco has forced 740 schools to send children home.
Steve Chalke, the head of Oasis Academies Trust, made the alarming claim as Boris Johnson faced mounting pressure to get a grip over widespread lack of access to swabs.
Mr Johnson has declared the return of lessons a ‘national priority’ and the Department for Education earlier this week trumpeted that 99.9 per cent of schools have reopened.
Three unions representing headteachers and governors have written to Boris Johnson urging him ‘take charge’ of Government efforts to ramp up testing capacity. Pictured above people queue for a test in Southend-on-Sea as the testing system continues to see high demand
Addressing concerns about testing when appearing before the Commons Education Committee on Wednesday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said each school was given 10 home-testing kits at the start of term and schools can now order more kits from the NHS directly.
Rob Halfon, chairman of the committee, asked if he could ‘guarantee’ that pupils and teachers who need local Covid-19 tests would be able to get them within 48 hours in the event of outbreaks.
But Mr Williamson replied: ‘Schools are, I think, the only organisation that actually has a set of testing kits that have been sent to them directly in order to be able to ensure that if they are in a situation where someone isn’t in a position to be able to get a test, then they actually have testing kits on site.’
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 poll from the GMB union suggests only half (51 per cent) of school staff have had training on Covid-19 health and safety measures and working practices – including infection control and correct use of PPE.
Stuart Fegan, national officer of GMB, said it is ‘shocking’ that large numbers of school staff are missing basic health and safety training around Covid-19 since schools had fully reopened.