Free coronavirus tests for school staff

Heads say testing for Covid-19 will be 'welcomed' by the education sector if it can be 'delivered effectively'

Amy Gibbons

Coronavirus: Free tests for school staff

School staff will be able to access free coronavirus tests for themselves and their families, the government has announced.

Education staff, along with all other essential workers, will be able to apply for tests in an initiative unveiled by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, at today's coronavirus briefing.

"Because capacity has increased so substantially, we are now able to expand who can get the tests," Mr Hancock said.

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"From today, employers of essential workers will be able to go on to get a test for any of their staff who need a test.

"And from tomorrow any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on themselves, directly.

"This all applies for people in essential workers’ households too who need a test. It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet."

He added: "Those included as essential workers will be based on the list for schools and education, set out on"

School leaders said the move was a "welcome step in the right direction."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, said: "School staff have been on the front line in the national response to coronavirus.

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"We have been clear from the start that governments across the UK understand they must honour this effort with the appropriate level of support and safety. If testing can be delivered effectively, then it will be welcomed by the education sector.

"It is extremely important that school teams have access to reliable and timely scientific and medical advice and support."

He added: "We know that social distancing is totally impractical in school settings. Although the safety of children is always the first thing on the minds of school leaders, it is not just about how the virus is dealt with by the young.

"Transmission from children to adults, teachers, carers and elderly relatives is of equal concern.

"Testing plays a crucial role here and where the government asks school teams to subject themselves to risk, it must assess this accurately and clearly state that.

"Measures to mitigate those risks should be immediately available to schools."

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said the government had been "slow to respond" to calls for education staff to be tested. 

"It is essential that staff who are self-isolating at home get immediate access to the test," he said.

"The UK has been in lockdown for exactly one month, during which time our members have worked to keep schools running for children of key workers and the most vulnerable pupils.

"Our call for testing has been unceasing. The government has been slow to respond, and there will be a fear amongst school staff that this promise will follow the pattern of previous pledges to contain the virus.

"Our members will not tolerate dither and delay. They need certainty and, from the health secretary, swift action to make this promise a reality."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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