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Education unions and associations have today joined together in advising secondary schools and colleges that they are not required to begin mass Covid testing from the start of the spring term.

The government yesterday announced that all secondary schools and colleges in England will be able to test staff and students from the first week of January.

However, organisations representing school and college leaders, teachers, and governors are concerned that the plans outlined by the government for rapid testing are not deliverable by the start of next term given that there are only two weeks to plan for this programme over the Christmas holiday period and numerous outstanding issues that must be addressed.

The plans require schools and colleges to recruit and train staff, and put in place processes to manage a large-scale testing programme. There are a number of unanswered questions including exactly what staff are expected to do, and what costs will be covered by the government, which have to be resolved before testing can begin. It is imperative that any testing programme is sufficiently resourced with suitably trained staff.

The Association of Colleges (AoC), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Church of England Education Office, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), NASUWT teachers’ union, National Education Union (NEU), National Governance Association (NGA), and Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), are sending joint advice to their members today.

The advice states: “If a school or college decides it is unable to set up such testing systems, based on the current plans, you will receive the full support of our respective organisations. Any of our members who come under unreasonable pressure are advised to contact us immediately.”

It goes on to state that schools and colleges stand ready to support the national effort to roll out mass testing, and that our organisations invite the government to discuss with us what support will be needed for the roll-out of lateral flow tests.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said:

“We all want pupils and school staff to be as safe as possible in school but an unplanned, uncoordinated and unworkable approach to mass testing without the provision of adequate resources and additional trained personnel risks undermining, rather than enhancing Covid safety.

“The Government must work with schools and colleges on a sensible timescale for the roll out of testing which is backed with the necessary practical and financial support to ensure safety and support the continued fight against Covid-19.”

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