The results of a survey of members of the school leaders’ union NAHT show how problems accessing tests for COVID-19 is affecting schools and children. “The government has failed schools and children.”


First published in September 2020.


According to a survey by the school leaders’ union NAHT, data collected from 736 school leaders over the last 24 hours shows that:

  • 82% of schools have children currently not attending because they cannot access a test to rule out COVID-19, and 87% have children currently not attending because they are waiting for their test results.
  • 45% of schools have staff currently not at work because they cannot access a test to rule out COVID-19, and 60% have staff currently staying home because they are waiting for their test results.
  • 94% of schools have children who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 this term, and 78% have staff who have had to self-isolate at all this term.
  • Of those schools who have had to send pupils home due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 this term, 70% have sent home individual pupils only. 7% have had to send home whole classes, 5% reported sending home whole year groups, and 4% sent home small groups of pupils (smaller than a class). Only 0.3% reported having to close their school.
  • 14% of respondents have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their schools since the start of term.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: Tests for COVID-19 need to be readily available for everyone so that pupils and staff who get negative results can get back into school quickly. But we are hearing the same thing repeatedly from our members across the country – chaos is being caused by the inability of staff and families to successfully get tested when they display symptoms. This means schools are struggling with staffing, have children missing school, and ultimately that children’s education is being needlessly disrupted.”

Paul Whiteman wrote last week to Boris Johnson to express concerns about the impact the lack of access to COVID-19 tests is having on schools. | Boris Johnson Castle Rock High School visit, 26 August 2020. | Flickr – Number 10

Having written last week to the Prime Minister with mounting concerns about the impact the lack of access to COVID-19 tests is having on schools, Whiteman now says:

The government assured us that testing would be ready for schools reopening – it was one of their own key safety requirements to have in place to enable children and teachers to return. It is in no way unpredictable or surprising that the demand for COVID-19 tests would spike when schools reopened more widely this term. And yet the system is in chaos. The government has failed schools and children. It is unacceptable for this to happen when schools have put so much effort into getting their part of the plan right, and when pupils have had to endure so much uncertainty and disruption already.”

In his letter to Boris Johnson, Paul Whiteman had warned that the situation is becoming increasingly disruptive and unsustainable for schools.🔷



PMP News reporting.


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[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 18 September 2020.]

(Cover: Shutterstock/POP.)

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