Lack of lateral flow tests in schools putting staff and children at risk, says UNISON

Nearly a third (32%) of school ​support ​and nursery staff say their employers are unable to provide them with enough lateral flow tests to do ​the recommended twice-weekly checks, says UNISON today (Thursday).

A survey of more than 2,300 school support staff – ​including teaching assistants, ​administrators and cleaners – revealed they ​were unable to follow government guidance ​for tw​ice-weekly tests ​as their school did not have an adequate supply of kits. That means many were going into school not knowing if they carried the virus, says UNISON.

The findings are released ​the day after the government announced the lifting of requirements for face coverings in ​schools.

In primary schools, ​more than a third (37%) ​said they were without sufficient ​lateral flow kits. ​In early years settings​, it was half (51%). Of those unable to get hold of enough tests at work, ​more than six in ten (63%) said they couldn’t get tests locally or online either.

Some staff who responded to the survey said ​because deliveries to their schools ​and nurseries had been delayed, ​they had tried to source their own​, but often ended up with none.

Workers described having to visit ​multiple pharmacies to collect boxes of tests or making repeated attempts to order them online ​so they might comply ​with the twice-weekly requirement.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Without regular testing for staff, it’s really difficult for schools to minimise Covid disruption.

“Schools ​and nurseries up and down the country have been struggling with high absence rates, and a poor supply of tests only make​s things worse.

“The government needs to look urgently at what is happening. Despite ministers’ guarantees that there were no shortages of tests, the reality on the ground is that staff don’t have enough.

“Given the current high rates of infection, the decision to remove face masks in schools is reckless. It’s vital ​that staff are provided with tests ​to try to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.”