Schools face staff crisis, test chaos as delays for Covid screening come early in term

Schools face staff crisis and test chaos as delays for Covid screening arrive early in term and in some areas as many as one in five teachers report sick with the virus

  • Schools faced delayed deliveries of Covid tests for the start of the term yesterday
  • Some have reported that one in five teachers have been called sick with symptoms of coronavirus
  • School leaders warned of testing chaos as some still had not received supplies










Schools faced delays in delivering Covid tests for the start of the term yesterday, as some reported that one in five teachers presented themselves ill with the virus.

As the students began their return after Christmas, chefs warned of the testing chaos as some still had not received supplies.

And problems worsened when the Department of Education (DfE) yesterday gave test-strapped schools a 17-hour deadline to order more or face a two-week wait.

The problems were compounded by staff absences caused by Covid, as Ian Bauckham, the boss of exam regulator Ofqual, said schools could suspend subjects like music to deal with shortages.

As students began their return after Christmas, chefs warned of the testing chaos as some still had not received supplies (file image)

A school in the Swansea Valley, Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera, asked years 7 and 8 to learn remotely until January 10. In north London, Evelyn Forde, headmistress of Copthall School, said 13 staff were absent and four children tested positive for Covid on site.

“The staff look pretty awful,” she added. Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, which has 52 schools across England, said early indicators suggested 20% of its staff could be absent.

All high school students are tested for Covid this week, but for some the lateral flow tests did not arrive on time (file image)

All high school students are tested for Covid this week, but for some the lateral flow tests did not arrive on time (file image)

Last night, it emerged that a high school was separating children who did not wear face masks or did not take tests twice a week.

Walton High, an academy in Buckinghamshire, said all pupils exempted from wearing face masks “will be seated at the back of classrooms at the point furthest from the teacher”. Michelle Currie, executive director, also told parents that if their child had not yet been vaccinated, it could have “consequences” including that it “could limit their career options later in life,” according to the Daily Telegraph.

All high school students are being tested for Covid this week, but for some the lateral flow tests did not arrive on time.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL business leaders union, said: “It is clearly imperative that schools and colleges have enough test kits to follow government guidelines.”

A DfE spokesperson added: “17.6 million more test kits will be delivered by the end of next week.”

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