The reopening of secondary schools is reported to be delayed in parts of England, with headteachers calling for pupils to be tested for COVID-19 on site.
The Department of Education has confirmed that upon the start of the new academic year next month, schools in England will be allowed to stagger their start dates so pupils can be tested twice, according to The Sunday Times.
The paper reported yesterday that parents have been told lessons in many secondary schools across the country are not expected to fully start until the second week of term.
Education unions have thus been warning that the start of the new academic year will “almost certainly” prompt a rise in COVID cases.
These claims come after the UK government confirmed that carbon dioxide monitors are to be provided to state-funded schools in England to help staff tackle poor ventilation and reduce the spread of the virus.
“The new school year and college terms will almost certainly prompt an uptick in case counts nationally,” said Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union.
“Current levels already match where we were in December 2020 [and so] to counter a significant rise in the R-rate heading back over one, school and college leaders will be looking to see what they can do to ensure on-site learning is safe and sustainable throughout the autumn term.”
Geoff Barton – General Secretary of the ASCL union – also told The Sunday Times: “If you have nine million going back to school, having been mixing through the summer, you can see the need to test them on site.”
It was confirmed in July by the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that schools could remove measures including bubbles and face masks when they return in September, but The I reports that a recent survey of more than 1,200 senior teaching staff found that many schools are still planning preventative measures.
Nearly one in five schools are reportedly planning to stagger the start or end of the school year throughout the coming term.
Steve Chalke – Chief Executive of Oasis – said: “Headteachers have called for months for a way of opening schools and keeping them open to avoid a third year of academic disruption to children.”
Despite the reports that staggered start times will be introduced, and the first school week could be delayed, Department for Education (DfE) insiders have denied that kids will lose out with more chaos when they return next term.
They said schools can reopen the week before term starts to begin testing.
And a DfE spokesperson added: “Settings may commence testing three working days before the start of term and can stagger the return of pupils across the first week.”
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