Covid: Schools asked to test on-site after Christmas

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Covid: Schools asked to test on-site after Christmas
School pupils in a classroom in Llanishen, CardiffImage source,

Secondary schools in England have been asked to prepare to test pupils on-site after Christmas.

On Friday, the Department for Education told schools that testing pupils upon their return in January "will help reduce transmission after a period of social mixing" during the holidays.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the DfE's plans were "not reasonable".

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at ASCL, criticised the "short timeframe".

In light , the DfE sent an email to secondary schools in England on Friday. In its email, the department urged secondary schools to be prepared to test pupils when they return in January.

It recognised that the request was "a significant additional ask". However, it stressed that "testing continues to play a vital role in keeping Covid-19 out of schools".

The DfE added: "Testing all pupils in school boosts testing participation and will help reduce transmission after a period of social mixing over the school holidays.

"Tests, PPE and funding to support your workforce will be provided as before. After this test on return, pupils should continue to test in line with Government guidelines."

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How has the pandemic impacted schools in England?

Throughout the Covid pandemic, schools have faced several disruptions and have been at the heart of lockdown measures, because they provide the potential for prolonged close-up interactions between people from many different households.

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Speaking on behalf of the ASLC, Ms McCulloch said that the education sector recognises the importance of Covid-19 testing as a mechanism to reduce the levels of transmission. However, she says that "it is not reasonable for the government to once again impose this considerable public health task on schools with minimal support".

She added that the government "seems to have forgotten that school leaders are educators rather than an ad hoc branch of the NHS".

Ms McCulloch said that the main goal for teachers at the moment is to provide the teaching and learning required by their pupils, which is "particularly important" following the disruptions experienced due to the pandemic.

The government said that introducing on-site testing is part of their commitment to protect face-to-face education and they are asking secondary school pupils to take one test at school when they return in January.

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