Covid: Leaders demand all lessons be online for schools in mass testing areas | Education

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School leaders are calling on the government to allow secondary schools to transfer all online education for students undergoing mass coronavirus test in London, Kent and Essex.

The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) and the Association of College Leaders have written a joint letter to Education Minister Gavin Williamson urging him to close the doors of high schools and colleges whose students are being tested this week and to deploy mass testing. students in other high infection areas in England.

The unions say the move would reduce the risk of transmission of the infection from these students in classrooms and on public transport, while avoiding a logistical nightmare for teachers and further disruption in children’s education. “We can’t just ask already overburdened school staff to administer these tests, as that will simply stop the education effort in schools,” said NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman.

the Observer Also understands that the government plans to mass test primary school children. The education ministry said it would not comment on the matter: “This has not been confirmed and therefore is speculation.”

Last week, the government started using its emergency powers under the coronavirus law to threaten legal action against school leaders in England who wanted to switch to distance learning this week.

All schools that were planning to transfer most of their teaching online in the last week of the term, to ensure that none of their students would have to isolate themselves on Christmas Day, receive the order to stay open.

A headmaster in Hertfordshire has received an official letter from Schools Minister Nick Gibb warning him that the government is ready to deploy its new powers under the law to ensure his secondary school remains open to all students until Friday.

The school, Presdales in Ware, planned to remotely teach the majority of its students during the last week of the term, while continuing to offer face-to-face social-distancing classes to vulnerable students and any other student who wanted to go to school. . Only about 25 students were to enter, so they could all sit two meters apart in class.

“We had nearly 50 [positive] cases since September and a major outbreak in a one-year cluster, ”said director Matthew Warren. “There’s no way, in the last week of the quarter, that we won’t have any cases.”

As of Tuesday last week, 170 staff and children – half of them from the English department – were out of school, isolating themselves. Warren said teachers now “dread” that they will have to call parents, especially younger students, to tell them their child should avoid contact with anyone on Christmas Day.

Warren had made a point of ensuring that his students did not have to undergo this separation during the holidays. “For sanity, hearts and minds, we felt it was not fair – and parents overwhelmingly supported us.

Last Wednesday, the day before the school closed, Gibb wrote a letter to Warren, stating that he was “willing to order” the board of trustees to keep the school doors open and that he had the power to do so in accordance with Schedule 17 of the Coronavirus. Act. The refusal to comply would have allowed the Department of Education to lead the board first and then seek an injunction requiring the school to provide face-to-face lessons, according to legal advice from Warren.

“We cannot defend this – this is not a good use of public funds, which we are desperate for,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said it was a national priority to keep educational institutions open full time and that it was essential that children stay in school until the end of the school year. trimester.

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