According to the head of a school principals union, coronavirus tests will result in schools being most likely to experience disruption in the first week of the semester.
According to guidelines from the Department of Education (DfE), secondary school students in England are to be tested twice on site in the autumn. They also suggest that tests with lateral flow devices should be done three to five days apart once students are back in school.
The DfE has also said that secondary schools and colleges can “delay” student return for the first week in order to manage the Covid-19 testing process and make the process smoother for those involved.
In a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, the Labor Party urged him to clarify the impact on learning after it was revealed that the average student missed 115 days of school during the pandemic.
The party warns that recent reports suggesting school returns may be delayed for students have created uncertainty and confusion among families with less than a fortnight before the start of the school year.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has warned that “disruptions” are inevitable at the beginning of the semester.
He said: “The government has asked secondary schools and colleges to conduct asymptomatic coronavirus tests on site at the beginning of the fall semester.
“The government’s advice to secondary schools and colleges is that they start taking tests three working days before the semester starts and that student returns can be staggered over the first week to cope with this. That will inevitably lead to disruptions in the first week of the new term of office. “
Mr. Barton added, “The testing program is a very important logistical exercise and we have repeatedly urged the government to provide more practical assistance to schools and colleges to conduct these tests.”
Shadowing Secretary Kate Green has alleged that Mr. Williamson’s “constant disregard” for parents’ need to plan ahead, manage childcare and prepare for return to school was “harrowing”.
In a letter to the Minister of Education, she asked: “Are schools expected to provide teaching or learning materials remotely to students who are out of school during the testing period?
“Why are these plans only being discussed now, with less than 10 days until the first schools return for the start of the new school year?
“Once again, your delayed planning and chaotic decision-making is risking havoc for families and will put additional pressure on school staff planning for the start of the new year.”
Ms. Green also urged Mr. Williamson to ensure safety around school ventilation and explain why the government has only just announced the provision of carbon dioxide monitors for schools.
On Saturday, the DfE announced that around 300,000 carbon dioxide monitors will be rolled out to educational institutions in England from September with an investment of £ 25 million to help staff combat poor ventilation.
Ms. Green added, “The Conservatives’ last-minute chaotic approach is damaging children’s education.
“Parents would rightly expect ministers to learn from their mistakes of the past year, but once again families are being treated as a minor matter.
“After two years of interrupted education, every day at school. Conservatives’ systematic refusal to plan ahead is simply not good enough. The workforce demands more for the future of our children. “