740 schools forced to send kids home over coronavirus testing shambles, teachers warned

A STAGGERING 740 schools have been forced to send kids home because of the coronavirus testing shambles, teachers warned today.

Tens of thousands of children across England are stuck in their bedrooms self-isolating because of the dire shortage of swabs.

Furious headteachers warned youngsters are being plunged into a second “lockdown by default” because of the crisis.

They have written to Boris Johnson to demand he personally sort out the mess.

While frantic parents say they have been unable to get a test for their offspring, despite spending all day refreshing the website.

The bosses of headteachers unions ASCL and NAHT warned the great return to schools is being put at “significant risk”.

In a letter to the PM, they said they are “frustrated” at the testing disaster, which is already seeing entire year groups booted out of class.

They wrote: “But this frustration is overshadowed by a deep sense of foreboding about the potential for the system to become ever-more riddled with delays as more cases emerge.

“This would be increasingly disruptive to children’s education and make staffing unsustainable.

“Our purpose in writing is to implore you to personally take charge of this situation in the interests of keeping our schools and colleges open, and protecting pupils and staff."

Geoff Barton, head of the ASCL, said families are being let down by Downing Street.

He fumed: “This will feel like lockdown by default – it will be more frustrating for parents because you can’t predict whether it is going to happen.”

The union was flooded with 276 emails from heads about Covid testing.

A staggering 96 per cent of them said they had problems getting the vital swabs.

Steve Chalke, head of the Oasis Academies Trust chain, said he has been told 740 schools in England have been shut or sent kids home because of suspected Covid outbreaks – around three per cent of the total.

In some schools this includes several year groups being banished from the classroom.

Some 110 schools in Greater Manchester alone have sent pupils home.

Writing for The Sun Mr Chalke said that 12 teachers in Waterloo are off due to just one member of staff having symptoms and demanded regular testing for pupils onsite.

He said today: “These are kids who have a mountain to climb after the schools shutdown – they have lost confidence.

“And now, just days after schools reopened they are being sent home again for two weeks.

“The Prime Minister says we have a moral duty to get all kids back to school, but sending them back is not the same thing as staying in school.”

A staggering 74 per cent of parents who needed a Covid test for their kid in the past fortnight said they struggled to get one, a snap poll from Netmums found.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said this morning kids should not get tested for coronavirus unless they have symptoms themselves – not just because one of their classmates may have it.

Grilled on the testings fiasco by MPs, he said: “To emphasise, people only with symptoms are the ones that should be actually doing the testing.

“So, if a child and their contacts have been sent home, it’s not that all those children that are sent home should be getting testing.

“It is only the child that is displaying symptoms as against the whole cohort.”

He refused to promise all pupils who need one will get a Covid test within 48 hours.

All schools have got 10 testings kits for use in emergencies, but pupils and teachers are sent home and told to get a home swab if at all possible.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland admitted this morning the Government was facing "real challenges" on testing, and suggested that school kids and their parents could be put at the front of the queue for priority testing, after NHS and social care workers.

The Prime Minister faced MPs today as the Government was drawing up a list setting out who will be at the front of the queue for coronavirus tests after a "colossal spike" in demand.

He said a new "action plan" this week would involve tougher rules on the movement of workers between care homes.

The PM said this lunchtime: "We are working very fast to turn around all the test requests that we get.

"I think most people looking at the record of this country in delivering tests across this nation will see that it actually compares extremely well with any other European country."

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the surge in demand for tests when schools returned was “entirely predictable”.

He added: “This is causing real distress for families and schools as well.

“It needs to be fixed and fixed urgently.”

The Department for Education did not deny 740 schools have been hit by suspected Covid outbreaks.

They said testing is being ramped up urgently.

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