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Commenting on the announcement from the Department for Education that routine Coronavirus testing of pupils and staff is to be rolled out from January, starting in secondary schools, and that daily testing of staff and pupils will be offered as an alternative to self-isolation, Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“Offering routine tests for Covid among pupils and staff is a potentially helpful additional measure for schools and colleges to draw upon to help them remain open as safely as possible.

“However, the introduction of mass testing is not a panacea to tackling the virus in education settings and it must not be allowed to compromise other Covid security measures in schools and colleges. It remains of serious concern that the Government has not taken action to ensure that all schools and colleges are supported and fully resourced to ensure that essential Covid-safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus amongst pupils and staff.

“The variable accuracy of lateral flow tests is already a concern and the effectiveness of the testing programme will need to be closely monitored to ensure it does not undermine the safety of pupils or staff.

“It will also be important that this strategy is not used to keep schools open in circumstances where the number of pupils or staff testing positive within a school or college indicates that full or partial closures are the safest option. The desire to minimise disruption to pupils’ learning must not be allowed to override the safety of pupils or staff.

“The NASUWT will be seeking urgent further clarification from the DfE about how these tests are to be administered and by whom. The NASUWT is clear that it is not the responsibility of teachers or school leaders to undertake testing of pupils or employees and will be expecting the Government to confirm that it does not expect teaching staff to carry out this work.”

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