SECONDARY school pupils may have to test themselves for coronavirus at home before returning to the classroom.
Ministers are considering plans to send lateral flow tests to children in the post rather than rolling out them out in schools, the Telegraph reports.
Secondary school pupils may have to test themselves for coronavirus at home before returning to the classroom (file photo)Credit: Corbis – Getty
Ministers are considering plans to send lateral flow tests, pictured, to children in the post rather than rolling out them out in schoolsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
It comes as the Department of Education prepares to unveil plans for a phased reopening of schools, which could begin as early as March 8 if coronavirus infections continue to fall.
In December, the Government asked schools to prepare on-site mass testing facilities in a bid to keep classrooms open through the Winter – but the proposals met resistance from unions and headteachers.
Ministers hoped that the introduction of two weekly lateral flow tests for any pupils who have come into contact with a Covid patient would put an end to entire year groups or classes being sent home to self-isolate.
A source told the Telegraph: “On the one hand, the Government wants everyone back at school, but what if a headteacher of a secondary school of 2,000 pupils says ‘no way’ to setting up lateral flow tests on site?”
Primary school staff have already been issued with lateral flow tests to take at home under new guidance from the DfE.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said setting up lateral flow test centres in schools was “challenging” and raised “logistical difficulties”.
He added: “What we ultimately believe is that leaders should be able to lead schools and focus on teaching. Setting up a field hospital in schools is a distraction from this.”
Lateral flow tests give results in as little as 15 minutes, and use swabs of the nose and throat.
In comparison, the gold standard PCR test takes at least 24 hours to turn around a result because it needs to be sent to a laboratory.
But experts have raised concerns over the accuracy of the tests, after a pilot study in Liverpool found that tests produced by US firm Innova missed around 51 per cent of all Covid-19 cases, according to data released by SAGE.
Asked what would happen if Innova tests were used in schools, Prof Deeks told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well we’ll be allowing teachers and students to stay in school who had Covid, we’d be missing people who’ve got Covid.”
It comes amid reports that the government could offer summer catch up classes as a way to make up for months of lost education.
Whitehall sources told the Daily Mail that officials were looking at whether to provide funding for catch-up classes aimed at kids who have fallen the furthest behind.
Earlier this week, Boris Johnson pledged a further £300m in catch-up funding for schools earlier this week, and promised the government would devise a “long term plan” to minimise the impact of lost education.
Teaching unions have also faced criticism for refusing to back plans to vaccinate one million teachers in a bid to get classrooms back open in weeks, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The National Education Union, the UK’s largest teaching union with 450,000 members, suggested it would continue to oppose the reopening of schools even if teaching staff were prioritised for the jab.
Schools were closed for three months during the first national lockdown last year.
And while they remained open during the second lockdown in November, many pupils still faced significant disruption – with large numbers of students forced to self-isolate with Covid symptoms.
Experts have warned that sustained school closures have had a devastating impact on children’s mental health.
Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said on Thursday that the education deficit caused by school closures could require a five year catch-up programme.
The Sun revealed this week that kids in lower years are likely to go back first – with kids in key exam years also bumped up the list.
It means some secondary school kids face waiting longer – possibly until after the Easter break to go back.