Teachers call on PM to fix school testing crisis ‘before it’s too late’


A head teacher called the situation a ‘disgrace’ as unions called on the Government to act now (Picture: Getty)

Teachers, education unions and the children’s commissioner have called on the Government to urgently resolve the testing crisis in schools or risk widespread closures.

Schools in England and Wales are being pushed to breaking point, as teachers told Metro.co.uk they ‘will end up closing by default’ if the Government does not address testing shortages, adding that ‘children deserve better’.

Concerned head teachers – who were given just 10 tests for each school – said they are struggling to cope with a lack of staff and funds to cover the classes of self-isolating teachers. Head teacher Dave McPartlin, of Flakefleet Primary in Lancashire, told Metro.co.uk the situation is a ‘disgrace’ and that the Government needs to sort it out ‘now, before it’s too late.’

The National Education Union (NEU) wrote to Boris Johnson on Sunday urging him to take emergency measures to ensure schools are safe, as the prospect of a second national lockdown looms.

The letter read: ‘It is now clear that your Government has not managed to ensure that testing is sufficiently available to meet the predictable need when 12 million children and their staff returned to school in England.’

‘School leaders, teachers and support staff have supported the wider opening for all pupils and worked hard to make it as safe as possible, but you cannot, and must not, take this support for granted,’ it added.

Education unions and the children’s commissioner urged Boris Johnson to act now or risk widespread school closures (Picture: PA)

Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield echoed the NEU’s calls and urged the PM to treat schools as a priority to avoid ‘throwing away’ the progress made by teachers.

The Department for Education (DfE) distributed 10 kits per school in early September and said staff would be able to order additional tests. But teachers have not been able to access any online or at testing centres since the start of term.

A teacher at a south London primary school, which has more than 700 pupils and 100 staff members, said they ran out of their tests in just over a week and haven’t been able to access any since.

They told Metro.co.uk: ‘We have three members of staff and more than 50 families isolating, who have been unable to get a test, or whose test has taken a long time, or has come back inconclusive.

‘Children who have been out of education for six months are missing over a week waiting to get a test.’

Teachers have not been able to access tests online or at testing centres for days (Picture: Twitter/Dave McPartlin)
Schools were given just 10 home kits to distribute among pupils and teachers (Picture: Getty)

A survey, conducted by school leaders’ union NAHT, revealed more than four in five schools in England currently have children out of the classroom because they cannot access a test.

The primary teacher added that staff are under enormous pressure to cover classes, while the already stretched state school has been given no additional funds for supply teachers – putting it at risk of going into deficit.

‘We are trying to restrict movement between bubbles so that we minimise risk, as per government guidance, which means that covering for absent staff is almost impossible,’ she added. ‘We may not have enough teachers to keep all classes open.’

The school, which is located in an area with many families living below the poverty line, sent their tests to the most disadvantaged parents who would be unable to access one otherwise. Meanwhile, the equality gap continues to widen as private schools are reportedly paying to privately purchase kits.

Flakefleet Primary in Lancashire, which has 520 pupils and 80 members of staff, are down to just five kits and have numerous families and teachers isolating.

Schools are struggling to cover teacher absences as many are forced to self-isolate (Picture: AFP)

Head teacher Mr McPartlin said staff have had to ration the final few in order to keep the school open.

‘Everyone on the ground can see how serious the situation has become, it’s just not good enough and our children deserve better,’ he told this news site.

‘This situation should have been anticipated weeks ago, schools will end up closing by default, budgets will be decimated and numbers infected will surge.’

‘This isn’t about politics or points scoring, this is about our kids, our families and our community,’ he added.

A Government spokesperson said: ‘Schools and teachers have gone to extraordinary lengths to get children back into school, with over 99.9% of schools open with the vast majority of pupils attending.

‘Where staff or children have symptoms, testing capacity is the highest it has ever been, and we are working to provide further priority access for teachers.

‘Schools only need to identify close contacts and ask them to self-isolate if and when a case is confirmed from a positive test result. Close contacts of confirmed cases must follow the full 14-day self-isolation period and should only seek a test if they have symptoms.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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