Covid testing difficulties could mean many secondary school pupils don’t return on 8 March

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 10:41 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 10:41 am
Covid testing difficulties could mean many secondary school pupils don’t return on 8 March (Photo: Shutterstock)

Not many secondary schools in England will fully reopen on 8 March as the Prime Minister has claimed, according to headteachers.

Despite government messaging on the return to schools suggesting that every school will welcome all its children back into classrooms, the Times reports that a number of school leaders have little faith this will be achievable.

Many secondary school students will not start in-person classes for up to two weeks after 8 March, according to some headteachers.

Why won’t schools be able to fully reopen?

There are concerns among some school leaders that the Government’s messaging around the return to schools has been misleading, with many parents likely under the impression that all schools will be fully reopened from the set date.

The current plan is for secondary schools to conduct Covid testing on all pupils at least three times, followed by the pupils taking a test at home.

Pupils will only be allowed to rejoin lessons once they’ve had a negative test.

While some schools are looking at bringing pupils in early to begin the testing regimes, this will require registering pupils and acquiring consent from parents.

‘We will need an army’

A number of teachers have expressed concerns about the additional workload and practicalities involved in this testing plan.

Speaking to the Times, chairman of governors at the King David High School in Manchester, Joshua Rowe, said: “We will need an army of people to test 800 pupils three times in a week. Since teachers have not been inoculated we will certainly not want them to get close to the children... It sounds like it will just be a week of disruption with very little teaching.”

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We think it is extremely unlikely that there will be secondary schools able to welcome back all of their pupils on March 8. Testing all secondary school pupils three times on site is a huge logistical challenge.

“Without significant extra support some schools and colleges may need longer than a week to enable all students to be tested prior to returning to the classroom.

“We expect the government to show a spirit of understanding, particularly as it has handed schools and colleges the job of carrying out a medical task with very little support.”