Free Covid tests at specialist schools in England will end this month | Schools

All free Covid tests in specialist schools and children’s homes in England is due to end this month as the government pushes ahead with its plan to return to normal life despite rising virus cases.

Last month the government dropped its recommendation that secondary school pupils in England should take Covid tests twice a week, but said special schools would still receive free tests.

However, the Guardian understands that with no additional funding available to prosecute him, even this provision will now come to an end.

A source suggested the reaction within the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to the decision had been one of “shock and disgust”.

The leader of a group of specialist schools in the Midlands has said Covid could spread rapidly in the setting, and without access to free testing families would be more cautious about sending their children to school .

“It’s taken us a long time to persuade some caregivers that school is safe for their child, but without testing we won’t have that daily reassurance,” the chief executive said.

“We struggled with staff shortages before that. Another outbreak would mean some students would have to stay home if we can’t maintain our [staff to student] ratios. A month ago, I would have thought: OK, okay, we can manage without tests. But the last two weeks means the warning lights are flashing again.

Children’s homes previously received batches of free tests and could order more as needed, but this is not expected to continue.

The announcement of the government’s ‘living with Covid’ plan, which included lifting the requirement to self-isolate, was delayed last month as the Treasury and the Department of Health fought over funding.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reluctant to continue funding the expensive testing system, although Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted he must be ready to restart if needed. Free lateral flow tests will no longer be available starting in April, and most other free tests are coming to an end.

Javid will have to fund any continued testing for NHS staff from his department’s budget, with details yet to be announced.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has repeatedly said he wants to see the UK “show the world how you go from pandemic to endemic”. The enrollment figures of recent weeks have reassured the department.

However, teaching unions and school leaders are concerned about the impact of cutting all testing, especially against the backdrop of rising infections. The latest infection survey from the ONS has suggested one in 25 people in England had Covid in the week of March 5.

Last week, a group of education unions sent a private letter to Zahawi urging him to make the tests freely available to schools and colleges, to minimize disruption to staff and students taking the exams. A level, BTec and GCSE this spring.

Julie McCulloch, Policy Director of the Association of School College Leaders, said: “Coronavirus is far from over and all schools and colleges, and especially those with vulnerable students, will be acutely aware that may not take much for infection rates. go up quickly.

“If students and staff do not have continued access to free testing, if they develop potential symptoms of Covid, there is a high risk that they could attend when infected and pass it on to others, or staying away from the classroom with symptoms that may not be the coronavirus at all.

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said: ‘No one wants to see further disruption to education and so the Government must continue to make PCR testing available to all pupils and education staff with disabilities. potential Covid symptoms after the end of March.

“Families want to be sure that after two years of chaos and disruption, their children can fully participate in education and experiences without worrying about cost.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: ‘We are now moving on to living with – and managing – the virus, while maintaining the people’s protective wall and communicating safer behaviors for the public to follow. to manage risk. Decisions on testing will be outlined in due course.

The offer of a Covid vaccination is expected to be extended to parents of children aged 5 to 11 this spring, but no date has yet been set for the rollout of the scheme.

Free Covid tests at specialist schools in England will end this month | Schools

Source link Free Covid tests at specialist schools in England will end this month | Schools

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