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More than four in five schools have children isolating because they can’t access a covid test, new survey shows

Today (Friday 18 September 2020), school leaders’ union NAHT has released the initial results of a survey of its members showing how problems accessing tests for covid-19 is affecting schools and children.

The data collected from 736 school leaders over the last 24 hours shows that:

  • 82% of schools have children currently not attending because they cannot access a test to rule out covid-19, and 87% have children currently not attending because they are waiting for their test results.
  • 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.
  • 94% of schools have children who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of covid-19 this term, and 78% have staff who have had to self-isolate at all this term.
  • Of those schools who have had to send pupils home due to suspected or confirmed cases of covid-19 this term, 70% have sent home individual pupils only. 7% have had to send home whole classes5% reported sending home whole year groups, and 4% sent home small groups of pupils (smaller than a class). Only 0.3% reported having to close their school.
  • 14% of respondents have had confirmed cases of covid-19 in their schools since the start of term.

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. 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.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

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