Call for Government action to support staff, pupils and parents as difficulty accessing tests leaves schools without capacity amid Covid-19
Green Councillors have today spoken out on how a lack of national Covid-19 test capacity continues to affect schools, pupils and staff in Brighton and Hove.
With the council notifying the city that the local response phase has progressed from ‘green’ to ‘yellow,’ meaning that extra vigilance is required due to a local rise in cases, Greens say the time is now for Government to act to ensure local testing is readily available to people returning to work and school in the city.
All local schools continue to follow government guidelines and are working closely with the council’s public health team to keep Covid-19 cases low, and the majority of the city’s children have returned safely to the classroom.
Greens have praised the sacrifices both teaching staff and families have made in order to minimise potential spread of Covid-19 and support the return to school, but say the Government’s inability to guarantee test, trace and isolate systems has left teaching staff and families in the dark.
There are concerns that teaching staff and pupils presenting with symptoms are unable to access tests, as a result of the national backlog and the likelihood that focus on the south east region has been de-prioritised to higher infection areas.
On top of letters to ministers demanding an effective test and trace response, and requesting additional capacity for the city, Green Councillors have now echoed calls of the NEU, asking ministers to ensure affected staff and families are given the ability to swiftly access testing, so that people can return to school and disruption to education is minimised.
With winter approaching, the National Education Union (NEU) has stressed that schools may be facing difficult decisions about whether to close due to staff shortages if an effective test and trace system is not urgently forthcoming – and are pressing for Government action.
Cllr Hannah Clare, Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee said:
“Our family of schools are continuing to manage the challenging circumstances of the return to school well and are following the guidance given. But without test and trace functioning effectively, this means at any given time groups of pupils and staff could be in isolation or off school.
“This lack of an effective test and trace system has the potential to leave our schools in the lurch ahead of winter, disrupting education at precisely at the time people are working to help young people resume their classroom learning. This is completely unacceptable.
“Residents want to do the right thing: isolate if they have symptoms, and get a test to find out if this is indeed Covid-19. But at present they are waiting for test slots, and for the answers they need to know whether it is safe for them to return to work and school, which in turn places a really significant burden on our children, young people, parents and staff.
“This is simply not good enough and we echo calls of the NEU that ministers must address this problem urgently. We will continue to provide support to our staff, pupils and parents and thank them for all they are doing. At the same time, we are now reissuing our calls for a better Government response to the problem of local testing shortages and want to encourage local schools to speak to us if further problems unfold as a result of this.”