Children to be Tested for Corona Twice a Week After Returning to UK Schools

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: A child has her temperature checked by a teacher before entering Earlham Primary School, which is part of the Eko Trust on June 10, 2020 in London, England. As part of Covid-19 lockdown measures, Earlham Primary School is teaching smaller ‘bubbles’ of students, to help …
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Parents will be expected to test secondary school children, aged 11 to 18, twice a week under government plans to reopen schools from next month, according to reports.

The government is set to have agreed on a compromise with schools unions in the plans after the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) dismissed suggestions schools become “field hospitals” responsible for the regular testing of older pupils.

Sources speaking to The Telegraph on Wednesday said that while secondary schools will conduct the first round of mass-testing as part of their staggered reopening, parents will be required to conduct bi-weekly testing of their children thereafter.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce his “roadmap” for loosening England’s third lockdown on Monday. He is expected to announce that children may return to school from March 8th, with secondary schools allowed to reintroduce classes to groups in phases to allow schools to manage the first lot of testing.

Parents would reportedly be using the lateral flow tests, which involve taking a swab from the nose or the back of the throat near the tonsils. Unlike the PCR test, it does not need to go to a laboratory for processing, and results are visible after 30 minutes.

Masks will also be mandatory in secondary schools in places where social distancing is not possible outside of classroom ‘bubbles’.

Care Minister Helen Whately would not confirm whether the Telegraph report was true, only telling Sky News on Thursday that “next week, more will be set out about how the return to school is going to work.”

Mrs Whately, however, later suggested that testing of children would be part of the plans to reopen schools, telling the BBC: “There is work being done to look at how testing will help schools come back. But there will be more details set out about that next week.”

When schools reopened in September after the summer holidays, following several months of disruption after the beginning of the outbreak of Chinese coronavirus in the UK, schools introduced temperature-checking at the gates. Some demanded children wear masks and carry their own hand sanitiser. Others also segregated playtime between the year groups and enforced strict “no touching” rules.

The British government has been criticised in recent months for its handling of schooling since the beginning of the pandemic, notably with regards to supporting poorer children after it was revealed that contractors were sending massively inadequate food parcels to families of children who would ordinarily receive free schools lunches, worth a fraction of what taxpayers were paying for them.

On Thursday, the Daily Mail reported on the cost of lockdown to children, claiming that pupils in England will have lost some 850 million hours of face-to-face classroom teaching by the time schools reopen on March 8th.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies from earlier this month calculated that school closures due to lockdown, which resulted in two years of exams being cancelled, could cost each pupil up to £40,000 in lost income throughout their lifetimes unless there is a concerted effort to catch children up on months of lost learning.

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