Schools will be able to order more Covid-19 home-testing kits from tomorrow, amid a developing crisis that has left staff and pupils across the country unable to obtain a local test.
Kits can be ordered in boxes of 10, and guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tells schools and colleges that the number they will receive will be “proportionate to your size".
However, the precise numbers of available tests are unclear.
Schools have also been told that they will be able to make a new order for coronavirus test kits 21 days after receiving a delivery confirmation email telling them that the DHSC has sent them a batch.
Coronavirus: Test and trace under pressure
The move comes amid major controversy about the difficulties school staff and parents have faced in getting tested at testing centres.
The 10 home-testing kits that were provided to schools at the start of term were to be used in “exceptional circumstances".
Tes revealed today that the DHSC is carrying out a survey of schools to find out how many kits have been used and why and also how many pupils and teachers have developed Covid-19 symptoms since the start of term.
There have been warnings that these supplies are already becoming depleted as people struggle to access tests at centres.
The Association of School and College Leaders warned that thousands of staff and pupils had been left unable to come to school because they had some symptoms and yet were unable to get a Covid-19 test.
And the union's general secretary, Geoff Barton, suggested that the government was in denial about the situation after health secretary Matt Hancock suggested the problem was down to the inappropriate booking of tests, giving the example of schools sending entire year groups to be tested.
Department for Education guidance on the ordering of tests says that “it is vital that educational settings only recommend children or staff to get a test if they develop these symptoms – the capacity of the NHS Test and Trace system must be protected for those with symptoms of the virus.”
It adds: “Asymptomatic testing is provided only in specific circumstances and on the recommendation of public health experts; for instance, in areas of high prevalence or high risk or where there is a local outbreak."
The DHSC and DfE have both been asked how many home-testing kits schools will be able to receive.