England's secondary schools face delayed start amid on-site Covid tests calls

ENGLAND’S secondary schools face a delayed opening for the new term after head teachers called for millions of teenagers to be tested for Covid.  

The chaos, which has already blighted two academic years, could be set to resume after the Department for Education confirmed that schools will be allowed to stagger starting dates while pupils are tested.

Under the latest guidelines issued only a few days ago, close contacts of children found to be infected will be traced and if they test positive, they too will have to self-isolate.

If an Covid outbreak involves five people or more, schools may still even be asked to send home a class or year group, despite  

As a result the department of Education has warned parents that it would not be “business as usual," with lessons in many secondary schools not expected to start until the second week of the new term.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, the senior leader union, told The Sunday Times: “If you have nine million children going back to school, having been mixing through the summer, you can see the need to test them on site.

“Logistically it will not be challenging. We thought we could focus on the norm of education and already we have the spectre of disruption.”

But he admitted, that “parents may rightly feel frustrated."

Steve Charlke, chief executive of academy trust, Oasis added:

“This is all the last minute again. Head teachers have called for months for a way of opening schools and keeping them open to avoid a third year of academic disruption to children.”

The latest guidelines come as under fire Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said in July that the success of the vaccine rollout would enable schools to have a fresh start in the autumn.

The included measures to stop including the teaching in small groups of bubbles and requiring pupils to wear facemasks.

They were followed by a series of measures announced by ministers in recent days, including promises that classrooms will be fitted with air quality monitors to improve ventilation.

Yet, amidst all the new measures, families will still be asked to test their children twice weekly for the virus until the end of next month when the policy will be reviewed.

Meanwhile, doctors have suggested that one of the best ways to keep children safe in school is to start offering the vaccine to 12 to 17-year-olds.

Earlier this week, Dr Hilary lobbied for the Government and JCVI to access their stance on the distribution of the jabs for those younger – reiterating that it’s proven to be safe.

Speaking on Goof Morning Britain he said: “The Moderna vaccine has now been approved by the MHRA, the UK regulatory watchdog, for use in 12 years old and older. 

"That's really good news, it means it's safe, effective, available – the decision will be made by the JCVI about whether it will be offered to 12 year olds and over. 

“If numbers spike up again, if we see children being hospitalised and suffering more severe infection from Covid, it's likely they'll review this and might offer this vaccine, or Pfizer…  it may well be that the policy does change.”

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