Schools ‘crying out for clarity’ amid fears testing will hit start of term

·2-min read
Hundreds of thousands of students will find out their grades on Thursday (PA) (PA Archive)
Hundreds of thousands of students will find out their grades on Thursday (PA) (PA Archive)

Teachers are “crying out for clarity” amid fears that the start of the new school term will be delayed for millions, a senior Labour MP said on Tuesday.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said children had been treated as an “afterthought” throughout the pandemic and raised fears that laptops handed to deprived pupils during lockdown were now being taken away.

It comes as the Government is poised to unveil its back to school campaign — just days before pupils start to return from their summer holidays.

All secondary students must be swabbed twice on returning but the task could take up the first week of term — meaning they could miss out on yet more days of lessons. In an interview with the Standard, Ms Green warned: “I just think schools are crying out for clarity and they’re not getting it from the Government. It really looks to us like children have been an afterthought throughout this pandemic. I think it’s unforgivable.”

She said ministers “desperately” needed to ensure that every child is online and had access to digital resources, not just because of Covid, but because home learning will be a “supplement” to classroom teaching in the future. She added: “It took them a long time to get laptops and digital resources out to kids who needed them and we’ve heard reports of those being taken away from kids again, so there needs to be a really urgent check on every child having all the digital resources and access to data they need for home learning.”

She warned without resources, the most disadvantaged children will be left “even further behind”.

The MP continued: “I do think things like the contact tracing and social distancing are going to be very, very important so if some children are having to go home and isolate and the Government knows who they are and the school can take all measures to protect kids so that as many of them can stay in school as possible.

“The other one is mask wearing, as the Government no longer requires it in schools, but a lot of schools have carried on requiring it. That has helped to reduce the spread of infection in communal areas.”

Ms Green wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Monday over fears that the full reopening of schools could be delayed again as head teachers spend the first week testing pupils for Covid. A Department for Education spokesman said: “Our plans for testing at the start of term are as they were when schools reopened in March.

“They were published two months ago, and set out that secondary schools and colleges can begin testing before the start of term and can stagger the return of pupils across the first week to help manage this process.

“Education remains a national priority, and the plans for autumn will make sure schools and colleges deliver high-quality, face-to-face education to all pupils, with minimal disruption.”

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