NAHT comments as schools return on the first day of term

As a new school term starts all secondary schools have been asked to provide one on-site test for pupils ahead of their return to the classroom to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19,

Students returning to university have also been advised to test before they travel back to campus.

Commenting on the first day back for many schools, Paul Whiteman, general secretary for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Thanks to the relentless dedication and hard work of school leaders and their teams, most primary schools have opened today and secondary schools are arranging the testing required before welcoming students back.

“We are hearing from our members that they are finding some pupils are absent and some staff are off sick or isolating. It is not a uniform picture, but at the moment school contingency plans are being relied upon to keep the system working.

“It remains to be seen how that progresses during the rest of the week and further into the term. It only takes a small increase in staff absence to begin to cause real problems. The government will need to be realistic about its expectations of schools.

“If the priority is to keep children in school we will need innovative approaches to delivery when staffing is critically low. There is no playbook for this and school leaders need to be confident that their decisions taken in the middle of a crisis will be supported by government and Ofsted.

“Once again we are seeing the value of education as a frontline public service and school leaders are grateful of the support and understanding shown by the local communities they serve.”

Proportionate safety measures will also remain in schools, colleges and universities to help reduce the transmission of the virus, including increased ventilation and good hygiene, with older students and staff wearing face coverings.

All early years settings, schools, colleges, and universities are advised to continue to follow the latest guidance set out by the department for education which is kept regularly under review.

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