The Department for Education (DfE) has announced that twice weekly testing of teachers will be deployed in all schools from 8 March. Secondary school pupils will also be tested in school three times when schools reopen, followed by twice-weekly tests taken at home.

The DfE did also intend to roll out daily lateral flow tests (LFTs) for secondary pupils and staff who are close contacts of confirmed cases for seven days, as an alternative to self-isolation, but this has been paused.

The NASUWT has long called for increased access to COVID-19 testing for pupils and staff in schools and colleges. Whilst the Union has concerns about the accuracy of LFTs, the greater deployment of testing as an additional mitigation measure is to be welcomed. However, the Union does have concerns about how schools and colleges may be expected to implement the new testing arrangements.

Unless a teacher has a specific contractual term to the contrary, schools must not expect teachers to carry out the tests. The vast majority of teachers and school leaders, including those employed under the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, cannot be instructed to undertake medical procedures.

It is critical that the school’s risk assessment and virus mitigations are not relaxed where staff testing is employed. All existing precautions should continue to be in place. The Chief Medical Officer to the Test and Trace programme has emphasised this, stating, “What we are doing here is case detection. We are not saying people do not have the disease if their test is negative”. And further: “We are also very clear that until we get a much lower prevalence of disease in this country, we shouldn’t be changing our behaviours.”

Teachers must not be required to undergo testing against their will. The DfE has been clear that testing is an offer, not an obligation. Teachers must also not be forced to take a test to avoid self-isolation - it is a personal choice. Additionally, although consent should be sought, teachers should not be required to sign any documentation that requires them to undergo testing.

If any members have concerns about the implementation of weekly and/or serial testing, they should speak to their line manager or NASUWT Representative in the first instance. If members still have concerns, they should email the NASUWT for further advice.