The government has said that secondary schools should test students for coronavirus when they return from the Christmas holidays.
The Department of Education (DFE) emailed schools on Friday urging them to order a sufficient number of lateral flow tests by Tuesday to ensure they can test students on site once they return in January .
The email said the move is necessary to “minimize transmission after a period of social distancing”, as well as asking school leaders to order additional tests so that students can continue testing at home.
But the demand has prompted allegations that ministers are treating principals like “an ad hoc branch of the NHS” as opposed to teachers.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) warned in response that it was not appropriate for the government to impose “considerable public health actions on schools with minimal support”.
The email – which came as the UK added six southern African countries to its travel red list, potentially following the emergence of the vaccine-developed Omron variant – stated: “We want all secondary schools to be at once on their own.” Get ready to test the students—the site returns in January.
“We understand this is an important additional question, but testing is playing an important role in keeping COVID-19 out of schools.”
It added: “Testing all pupils in school increases testing participation and will help reduce transmission after a period of social distancing over school holidays. Testing, PPE and funding to support your workforce is already in place. kind will be provided.
“After this test on return, students should continue to take tests in line with government guidelines.”
Previously, at the beginning of the autumn period, all secondary school and college students in England were asked to take two lateral flow tests upon their return to school.
They were then asked to continue with two tests per week at home. This testing “remains voluntary but strongly encouraged”, the government’s website says, adding that schools should maintain an on-site asymptomatic testing facility “until further notice so that they can offer the test to students who are homeschooled.” But unable to test himself”.
But Julie McCulloch, policy director at ASCL, warned that “the last thing” schools need is “another huge responsibility that doesn’t even fall within the realm of education”.