Head teachers call for help in testing children for coronavirus

By Rachael Burford, Local Democracy Reporter

Head teachers today called for further help to roll out testing in schools as they raised concerns about using volunteers to swab children.

The Government has insisted that teachers will not be tasked with testing 5.5 million children and that the roll-out would be led by agency workers and volunteers.

However, school staff are demanding clarity as they face spending their Christmas holiday organising the scheme and finding people to administer swabs.

Emma Pattison, head mistress at Croydon High School GDST, said the timing of the testing announcement last week was “dreadful” but it would be a potential “game-changer” for schools.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb, said volunteers would not need background checks as long as they are supervised.

Some schools are not comfortable with allowing volunteers to test children without having had a Disclosure and Barring Service [DBS] background check.

Ms Pattison added: “We have a project plan ready but the ‘to do’ list is lengthy and it will certainly impact on the Christmas holiday.

“We have moved away from the idea of using parent volunteers – there isn’t enough time to set everything up, including the DBS checks, so we are hoping to use support staff.

“We have sent out a survey to find out if they are happy to help; I’m sure some will feel uncomfortable, which I would completely understand, but we are hopeful there will be some who will be able to help out.”

The Government is expected to provide detailed logistical guidance this week. The armed forces will also be used to help schools plan.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Testing on this scale means more children, teachers and staff can stay in their schools and colleges without the need to self-isolate.

“Schools and colleges taking part in asymptomatic testing will help identify positive cases, break chains of transmission and reassure parents and teachers about returning to school and college for the spring term.

“We do not underestimate the challenges involved and scale of delivering this, which is why a cross-government operation is being mobilised to support schools and colleges.”

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