Volunteers and agency staff will administer Covid-19 tests in schools across England and teachers will not be responsible for testing their students, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said.
Defending the government’s decision to delay the return of most high school students by a week until the start of the next term, Gibb insisted the move was “good news” because it would allow testing. mass in schools.
School leaders and union leaders accused the government of exerting unacceptable pressure on teachers and school resources after announcing on Tuesday that secondary school staff would be tested every week.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Gibb made no apologies for the decision being made just before the last day in office, saying the country was in the throes of “an evolving pandemic fast ”and that it was therefore necessary to act“ at a rate ”.
The country saw a 28% increase in infections last week and a 14% increase in hospital admissions last week, he said, adding that the new schools testing system would ensure that all close contacts of a person who tested positive would. be tested daily for seven days to limit the need for mass self-isolation.
“It’s about making education a national priority, having more people in the classroom,” he said. “Rather than self-isolating each time there is a positive case in a school, on average around 24 students must… isolate themselves, [so this testing regime is ] to avoid this.
Asked why the government had threatened legal action against schools in areas of rapidly rising infections in London to prevent them from closing days earlier before Christmas, to order all secondary schools to close for one week after Christmas, Gibb said the government. – the orderly closure was for a “specific reason”.
He said getting 11 billion test kits to schools would be a “massive logistics exercise” and “detailed operational details” would be released next week.
“It is very important that we test five and a half million students twice, three days apart, to make sure that we break the transmission of the virus,” he said.
“After the increased shuffling over the Christmas break, it’s about making sure we have more kids in classes in the spring and summer as we go along. It is an incredible initiative to have these tests taken in schools. This is how we tackle this virus. “
The armed forces would plan the deployment of the tests, while volunteers and staff from government-funded agencies would carry out the tests, he added.
When asked if teachers would have a role in testing, Gibb told Sky News, “No, teachers are already fully occupied. They already have their hands full.
Asked by the Today program if schools are expected to recruit volunteers, Gibb said it would be a “national effort” and many volunteers were already involved in the schools. They would not need a DBS check as they would be supervised, he said.
On BBC Breakfast, Gibb did not rule out the possibility of a nationwide lockdown after Christmas, but said the government wanted to continue with the tier system.
“We think the level system is a very effective way, of course, [but] you know, we don’t rule anything out. This government is absolutely determined to fight this virus, ”he said.