Schools face staff and test chaos with delays for Covid screening

Schools face staff and test chaos with delays for Covid screening

Schools face staff crisis and test chaos as delays for Covid screening hit the start of term and some areas see up to one in five teachers call in sick with the virus

  • Schools faced delayed deliveries of Covid tests for the start of term yesterday 
  • Some reported one in five teachers called in sick with coronavirus symptoms
  • Headteachers warned of testing chaos as some still had not received supplies

Schools faced delayed deliveries of Covid tests for the start of term yesterday as some reported one in five teachers calling in sick with the virus.

As pupils began their return after Christmas, heads warned of testing chaos as some still had not received supplies.

And problems were deepened as the Department for Education (DfE) gave schools short of tests a 5pm deadline yesterday to order more or face a two-week wait.

Issues were compounded by staff absences caused by Covid, as Ian Bauckham, the boss of exams regulator Ofqual, said schools could suspend subjects like music to cope with shortages.

As pupils began their return after Christmas, heads warned of testing chaos as some still had not received supplies (File image)

A school in Swansea Valley, Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera, asked Years 7 and 8 to learn remotely until January 10. In north London, Evelyn Forde, head of Copthall School, said 13 staff were absent and four children tested positive for Covid on-site.

‘Staffing is looking pretty horrendous,’ she added. Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, which has 52 schools across England, said early indicators suggested 20 per cent of his staff could be absent.

Last night it emerged a secondary school was segregating children who do not wear face masks or fail to test twice a week.

Walton High, an academy in Buckinghamshire, said any pupils exempt from wearing face masks ‘will be seated at the back of classrooms at the furthest point from the teacher’. Michelle Currie, executive principal, also told parents that if their child had not yet been vaccinated, this could have ‘consequences’, including that it ‘may limit their career options later in life’, according to The Daily Telegraph.

All secondary pupils are being tested for Covid this week, but for some the lateral flow tests failed to arrive in time.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of heads’ union ASCL, said: ‘It is clearly imperative that schools and colleges have enough test kits to follow the government guidance.’

A DfE spokesman added: ‘A further 17.6 million test kits will be delivered by the end of next week.’

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