The Department for Education (DfE) has announced that weekly/serial testing will be deployed in schools in the New Year.
The key aspects of this programme are:
- weekly lateral flow tests (LFTs) offered to all adults working in secondary schools and colleges;
- daily LFT testing for secondary pupils and staff who are close contacts of confirmed cases for seven days, as an alternative to self-isolation.
The DfE hopes to roll out testing to staff in primary schools in February, if not earlier.
However, additional plans for testing of staff and pupils in the first two weeks of the spring term have also been announced by the DfE. Advice and information on these additional plans is available on our Reopening of Schools and Coronavirus Testing Spring Term page.
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 weekly or serial 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.
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.