Minister: Scientists not advising routine testing in schools

Monday, August 10, 2020

Health and care minister Helen Whately has defended the government on the testing of pupils and teachers as schools prepare to reopen in September.

Speaking with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, she reiterated Boris Johnson’s assertion that getting all children back to the classroom for the new term was a “national priority”.

The Conservative MP added: “On routine testing, we absolutely follow the advice of the chief medical officer and SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

“At the moment they’re not advising routine testing for schools but the crucial thing is that schools will be safe and children should be coming back this autumn.”

Ms Whately said schools were taking extra steps to minimise the risk, such as staggered opening times and hand washing.

The Prime Minister has faced widespread calls to boost coronavirus testing and tracing in order to safely return children to school without to imposing further “trade-off”  restrictions on businesses or social lives.

Teachers, scientists, opposition politicians and the children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield have all called for improvements to testing before pupils return.

The Association of School and College Leaders said teachers could adopt a week-on, week-off approach if there was a resurgence of coronavirus and schools were forced to limit the number of pupils attending.

The union’s general secretary Geoff Barton said schools were “losing patience” with the government’s demand to have all children back in school next month without a back-up plan if this was not possible.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted there is little evidence of transmission in schools.

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