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Testing in Schools

(21 Posts)
Franbern Fri 18-Dec-20 14:25:33

In their usual, totally 'pluck an idea from the air' methodolgy, the government, - without any consultation with either NHS Professionals or Education Unions decided yesterday, that as from January testing would take place in secondary schools, to be carried out by staff and Volunteers!!!!

Copy below of letter sent by National Education Union in response

NEU letter on testing: IMMEDIATE
17 December 2020
NEU writes to Gavin Williamson about his “inoperable” mass testing plan
Following a briefing call on the proposals for a mass testing programme for secondary schools, beginning in January, the joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, have written to the Secretary of State with a list of concerns.
The full text of their letter to Gavin Williamson follows:
17 December 2020
Dear Gavin
As we currently understand them, following a briefing call from the Schools’ Minister, Nick Gibb, we consider the current proposals to operate a mass testing programme for secondary school pupils to be inoperable. Telling school leaders, on the last day of term, that they must organise volunteers and parents, supported by their staff, to test pupils in the first week of term, whilst year 11 and 13 pupils are on site for in school teaching, is a ridiculous ask of professionals who are exhausted by the unreasonable demands, backed by legal threats, that they have been subjected to this term.
We are also highly concerned by the materials you issued on Tuesday 15th December, in the last week of term, which give rise to many questions, listed below:
1. The examples detailed in the testing handbook are, we understand, based on the reality that the army or other external trained staff ran the tests. Do you have any pilots where school staff have run these tests with no external support?
2. In your proposal school leaders are asked to find staff to run these tests. In today’s announcement, school leaders are asked to find volunteers, such as parents and governors, to run the tests. Running such medical procedures is significantly outside the experience and job description of existing school staff and volunteers. School leaders are anyway facing significant staff shortages due to the pandemic. What studies have you carried out about the feasibility of recruiting such staff, and volunteers?
3. The BMJ journal suggest that tests run by non-specialists are significantly less accurate, what pilots have you run on the accuracy of the tests that you are proposing?
4. You say that reasonable extra costs will be met - but you have not even met the costs that schools have so far run up in supply staff, what is your definition of "reasonable"?
5. The NEU has called for regular mass testing of asymptomatic staff and students: this would find asymptomatic cases and allow them and their contacts to be isolated, contributing to significantly driving down cases overall; however, our reading of your current proposals is that is not what you are suggesting. We understand that you mean whilst school staff are to be tested on a regular basis, school students would only be tested if they are a close contact of a student who has tested positive on the normal testing system. Is that correct? (This was not the proposals as we understood it when PHE talked us through a pilot some time ago).
6. Further, what definition of close contact are you using? Given that students travel together both to and from school, mixing across year group bubbles and across schools, a definition that only includes those they sit next to in class may be deficient. Have you modelled various definitions of close contact?
Your proposal suggests that it will allow asymptomatic students to be found, but on our reading, that is very misleading. Only close contacts will be tested but in some of those asymptomatic cases may be missed. Compared with the current methodology, where close contacts are asked to work from home, your proposal is likely to lead to more positive students being in school. What modelling or pilots do you have of that?
The issues we raise, and the importance of the questions we ask, lead us again to ask you to meet us at the earliest opportunity so that we can understand better the thinking behind today’s announcement and the evidence behind the proposals before we decide if we can support them.
best wishes
Mary Bousted Kevin Courtney
Joint General Secretary Joint General Secretary

Lucca Fri 18-Dec-20 14:31:50

Absolutely this. A perfectly reasonable letter. I don’t understand how parents and volunteers can administer tests like this a)without training (over the Christmas break ??) or b) without DBS checks being run c) where would they take place given schools are full to the gunwhales providing extra space for bubbles

growstuff Fri 18-Dec-20 15:03:32

I can answer your last question.

Only Years 11 and 13 are returning for the spring term on 4 January. The rest are having a week of online learning at home.

Please note that when some councils wanted to have a week of online learning before the holidays, they were threatened with court action.

Galaxy Fri 18-Dec-20 15:54:42

Yes growstuff is right. As she was prior to the schools reopening when she explained many of the issues to some who just wanted to criticise teachers. Only GCSE and a level students returning in the first week.

J52 Fri 18-Dec-20 16:12:14

A crazy idea, again. How many headteachers and staff will be driven to complete breakdown by this?

welbeck Fri 18-Dec-20 18:05:49

DBS is not an issue, as the volunteers would not be alone with the pupils.
but everything else is. clinical waste disposal, correct containers, storage, collection. all this is highly controlled by statute, and not easy to set up in an instant.
meant to be done in an area with impervious flooring, which is rare in many schools now. i heard a teacher saying the only place in their school was disabled toilets ! which were needed for intended purpose. many other issues... lack of consultation.

EllanVannin Fri 18-Dec-20 18:31:03

Cleaners, the caretaker, they'd have had CRB checks.

Lucca Fri 18-Dec-20 18:32:58

Yes but they have to be volunteers !

Franbern Fri 18-Dec-20 18:41:17 this testing is quite an invasive procedure, ful written, signed agreement from parents will also need to be in place.

MissAdventure Fri 18-Dec-20 18:44:01

Full ppe for those doing the testing, too.

trisher Fri 18-Dec-20 18:54:29

You do wonder who comes up with these ideas. I've a picture of them sitting round (suitably distanced of course) asking "Anybody got any new ideas?" Then somebody shouting out "Testing in schools" and the rest just agreeing mindlessly with suitable asides of "teachers can do it".

MissAdventure Fri 18-Dec-20 19:05:29

They sound like a bunch of children who have been put in charge.

Hetty58 Fri 18-Dec-20 19:15:01

I believe the plan is 'optional' and simply won't get off the ground. Another example of our incompetent government's pie in the sky 'ideas'.

J52 Fri 18-Dec-20 20:09:21

If I were a headteacher, I’d seriously be looking at my contract and terms of employment. Do medical procedures come within the remit?
If there I’d an issue arising from the testing, who is held responsible?

Jaxjacky Fri 18-Dec-20 20:19:02

Franbern the lateral flow tests are not as invasive, but irrespective of that, I assume these ‘volunteers’ will be responsible for the results too.

MaizieD Fri 18-Dec-20 20:27:19

DBS is not an issue, as the volunteers would not be alone with the pupils.

I thought that initially, welbeck, but that would mean taking a member of the teaching staff (or an all too rare teaching assistant), away from their teaching duties to accompany the 'unchecked' volunteer. So, not at all desirable.

J52 Fri 18-Dec-20 20:27:27


Hetty58 Fri 18-Dec-20 20:36:04

I can't see a queue of willing volunteers appearing any time soon!

vegansrock Fri 18-Dec-20 20:44:12

Maybe all the teacher bashing “keep schools open at any price” brigade will be volunteering to stick cotton buds up stroppy teenagers’ noses for hours at a time.

Lucca Sat 19-Dec-20 06:54:30


Franbern the lateral flow tests are not as invasive, but irrespective of that, I assume these ‘volunteers’ will be responsible for the results too.

What are these tests? Don’t they still involve a swab from back of mouth and nose ?

Franbern Sat 19-Dec-20 08:44:01

Taking swabs from nose and throat is pretty invasive!!!!