Schools committee raises issues over English testing plans

UNISON’s national schools committee for England, together with representatives of the union’s further education committee, met with Department for Education (DfE) and NHS test and trace officials yesterday to discuss the government’s plans for mass testing of school staff and pupils in secondary schools and colleges in England in January. Among many issues, the committee highlighted concerns about the reliability of the proposed tests, numbers and roles of staff that would be involved, potential increased workloads, proper training, availability of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), face coverings and the roll out of the programme to primary and special schools. The committee was clear that, while the union supports the use of mass testing in schools, because of concerns with the high rate of false negative lateral flow test results, this test should not be used as an alternative to self-isolation of close contacts and bubbles following conformed COVID-19 cases. The British Medical Journal, World Health Organisation, Royal Society of Statisticians and Royal College of Pathologists have all warned that these tests can miss a substantial proportion of cases and should not be used alone to identify the infection. Also, government figures from a mass testing pilot in Liverpool, in over 5,000 people without symptoms, showed that up to half of positives were missed, which included up to 30% who had high viral loads and so had a higher risk ...
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