Release date: 18/12/2020
Following the announcement on 15 December that rapid-result COVID-19 tests will be made available to schools and colleges in the new year, the government confirmed a staggered rollout of testing for secondary schools and colleges from the beginning of January yesterday (17 December).
Secondary schools and colleges will operate a staggered return following the Christmas holiday. All non-exam year groups will be offered full-time remote education, as close as possible to that which pupils would get in class, during the first week of term with face-to-face education for all resuming on 11 January 2021.
Sam Henson, director of policy and information at the National Governance Association, said:
“Large scale testing is clearly an important priority but the lateness of this announcement and the huge degree of pressure that this places on school leaders as a result is unacceptable and irresponsible. NGA is deeply concerned that the timing of this announcement and accompanying guidance will have a detrimental impact on the welfare and wellbeing of those working in schools and in particular those leading schools and academy trusts. The lack of consideration for logistical issues associated with setting up a testing programme at the scale envisaged is further indication that the Department for Education’s policy-making process is slow to understand how schools function. The expectation for schools to assemble a volunteer workforce and roll this out in the next few working days is both unreasonable and unviable.
“NGA is also aware of concerns raised by members and colleagues regarding the suggestion included within the guidance that those governing could form part of the testing workforce within schools. Governing boards have a strategic ‘eyes on, hands off’ remit in school and trust leadership, with volunteers contributing valuable time, skills and expertise to ensure the best education for all pupils. We must make it clear that any contribution to the testing workforce requirements is entirely voluntary, and there will be no expectation for governors and trustees to take on this additional role, as we completely understand that many do not have the personal or professional circumstances to allow them to do so on top of the huge amount of time they already give to their school. Where governors and trustees do opt to take on such a role of their own accord, this is completely separate to their governance role, and should not detract from the board’s primary role of strategically supporting school leaders as they roll out mass testing.
“Governing boards have significant responsibilities to support the wellbeing of those employed in their schools and trusts. On their behalf, we join those seeking assurances that school staff will not be expected to carry out any invasive medical procedure.”