Testing is ‘key’ to getting pupils back in classrooms, says Telford head

Schools are ready to welcome back pupils on a full-time basis if clear instructions on Covid testing are laid out, a Shropshire educational leader has said.

Dr Gill Eatough, chief executive of the Learning Community Trust
Dr Gill Eatough, chief executive of the Learning Community Trust

With the government beginning to lay out plans for all pupils in all years to go back to the classroom from March 8, the chief executive of the Learning Community Trust, which manages six schools in Telford & Wrekin, said clear regulations for testing students would be vital in ensuring a successful return.

Dr Gill Eatough added that teachers should have been a priority to receive the Covid vaccination, with cohort groups one to four having received the vaccine by mid-February.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that schools, socialising and some sports could return next month under proposals to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.

He said secondary schools and colleges will "benefit from twice-weekly testing", although further details on how this will be delivered are yet to be confirmed.

Dr Eatough said: "We've been aware for the last few weeks there's a major commitment from the Government to open schools up fully, which I'd agree with.

"It's not without some concerns and we hope some of those will be addressed so we understand what's being asked of us.

Challenge

"The challenge is around our big secondaries and what we can do around testing.

"We need to understand how testing children in schools will work – the last thing we want is to be sending children back home."

Dr Eatough said teachers on the frontline of the pandemic should have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

"Testing in schools is our main concern, as well as making sure staff feel very confident that schools are doing everything they can to ensure they're Covid-secure," she said.

"I would have liked teachers to have preferential access to the vaccine.

"My staff are on the frontline, particularly with young children in primary schools who cannot socially distance, so I'm disappointed there's been no move to vaccinate them as that would have solved an awful lot of issues."

Dr Eatough added: "We know children need to be back in school. They've been at home since Christmas and however good your home learning is, they need to be back and our schools need to be open.

"A full return from March 8 will be fine for primary and secondary schools as we've had a lot of those children in throughout the pandemic anyway."

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