Heads: Why did North miss out on rapid Covid tests?

School leaders demand answers over apparent North-South divide on rapid Covid tests, with northern areas missing out
11th December 2020, 11:08am
John Roberts

Share

Heads: Why did North miss out on rapid Covid tests?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/heads-why-did-north-miss-out-rapid-covid-tests
Covid: School Leaders In The North Of England Have Asked Why Schools In Hard-hit Communities There Were Not Offered Rapid Testing

School leaders are asking why areas of the North hit twice as hard by Covid as the current hotspots were not given the same access to rapid testing now being offered to teachers and students in the South East. 

A multi-academy trust leader from Hull said that, at its peak, the Covid rate in the city was more than double any current London borough level and yet its pleas for help were ignored by the government.

Last night health secretary Matt Hancock announced an immediate plan for testing all secondary school-aged children in the seven worst-affected boroughs of London, in parts of Essex that border London and in parts of Kent.


Coronavirus: Rapid testing plan announced for London and the South East

Exclusive: DfE rejects plea for rotas from Northern Covid hotspot

Insight''Roulette wheel' for teachers in country's Covid hotspot


But leaders in the North are questioning why similar support for schools was not available to them when rates of Covid in the overall population were much higher than they are in London now.

Covid: Why didn't the North get rapid testing?

Jonny Uttley, chief executive of The Education Alliance, a multi-academy trust based in Hull and East Yorkshire, said: "I absolutely welcome rapid testing for secondary students in some areas in the South East - it is a big step forward and I hope it will keep children, staff and families safer."

But in a post on Twitter, he added: "I am genuinely perplexed about why this was not available in Hull or other northern communities.

"The seven worst-affected London boroughs will have access. The highest rates today are in Waltham Forest at 321 per 100,000 followed by Barking and Dagenham at 315.

"Three weeks ago, at our worst point, in Hull we were at 780 per 100,000 - the highest recorded anywhere during the pandemic.

"It is so difficult to understand why this wasn't made available to young people in Hull and many other northern communities who have faced similar challenges."

Posting on Twitter, Andy Byers, the headteacher of Framwellgate School in Durham said: "There is no doubt the Tier 3 areas of the North, with infection rates far worse than London, are being ignored."

Tes revealed last month that the Department for Education rejected a plea from Hull headteachers to allow their schools to move on to rotas to help manage the disruption Covid was causing.

Three weeks ago, Hull had 754.5 Covid cases per 100,000, The second highest hotspot at the time was Blackburn with Darwen, with 553.1 and then Kirklees with 552 and Oldham at 550.   

All of these are considerably higher than the current figures for London.

At a Covid briefing last night, Mr Hancock said the government was "particularly concerned about the number of cases in London, Kent and Essex".

He added: "Cases are rising and in many areas are already high. Looking into the detail, the testing results and survey show us that by far the fastest rise is among secondary school-age children 11 to 18 years-old, while the rate among adults in London is broadly flat."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The evidence shows us there is a clear rise in cases in secondary school-age children in these areas and we must act to target these rates - about one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it without realising it.

"Our recent pilots in Liverpool have shown rapid testing is effective and can help us quickly assess where the virus is spreading most and take action to stop it in its tracks.

"Local authorities in Tier 3 can apply for national support and funding for community testing to target high case rates."

Today the department has published a list of the areas in the South East that are being targeted for rapid Covid testing of secondary school students and staff.

Teachers, school staff, students and their families are being urged to get tested this weekend.

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters