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Testing failures threatening school safety

28 September 2020

OVER TWO thirds of teachers in Northern Ireland are concerned about access to Coronavirus tests, should they or pupils need one, a survey by the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, has found.

More than six in ten (62%) of the teachers surveyed said that pupils in their school have displayed symptoms consistent with Covid-19 since the full reopening of schools this term. 67% said they were concerned about access to tests with respondents reporting delays in the system and incidents of colleagues and pupils having to travel long distances to access a test.

The survey also highlighted concerns about the adequacy and enforcement of mitigation measures designed to minimise the risk of virus transmission within schools.

Only 43% said they believed the arrangements for cleaning of their school were adequate, with only 58% saying there are arrangements for the regular cleaning of touch surfaces throughout the day in place. Only 48% said there was adequate availability of PPE in their school.

Only just over half (54%) said that all pupils and staff in their school have routinely been wearing masks in corridors and shared spaces, in line with Executive guidance.

74% said their level of anxiety and stress around work is currently high or very high.

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said, “It is evident that the capacity issues in the testing system need to be urgently addressed in order to ensure schools can stay open and to minimise the disruption to pupils’ learning.

“The NASUWT believes that all teachers who need to self-isolate due to Coronavirus should also be able to get a test, irrespective of whether or not they have Covid-19 symptoms."

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT national official Northern Ireland, said, “All schools must have in place robust safety measures to ensure regular cleaning, the wearing of masks in line with the Executive’s guidance, provisions to support social distancing as much as possible and to enable good hand hygiene."