National Education Union's leader and Portsmouth teacher says Covid testing is 'not good enough'
THE leader of Britain’s biggest teaching union and city teacher has said the current Covid-19 testing system in place for staff and pupils ‘is not good enough’.
Amanda Martin, National Education Union president, said she was concerned for the welfare of pupils and teachers but currently remained satisfied with levels of safety in schools.
It comes as the rate of infection in Portsmouth increased by 78 per cent in two weeks and a number of the city’s schools have sent pupils home due to infections. The rate is 34 new infections per 100,000 population.
Ms Martin told The News: ‘While teachers have eventually been put on the priority list, the testing process to find out if pupils and school staff have the virus is not good enough.
‘Speaking to members, the testing process has been a nightmare.
‘People have either not been able to get tests or have had to drive hundreds of miles. The situation has not been helped by the closure of the Tipner site.’
It’s a sentiment shared by Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for education, Suzy Horton.
Councillor Horton said: ‘Schools have been doing their bit to mitigate the risks but the testing process has been a shambles.
‘I was really concerned when the first few waves of cases came through, but credit to schools, the mitigation they’ve put in place currently seems to be doing a good job. However I remain cautious and never complacent.’
Just recently Miltoncross Academy, Mayfield and St Edmund’s schools had to send pupils home along with further schools across the county.
But Ms Martin is satisfied current measures in schools are mitigating the risk of the virus, and the union has helped.
Ms Martin said: ‘We’ve produced a website which gives a clear breakdown for each council ward of the rate of infection in communities and schools.
‘We’ve also put in place a robust risk assessment for schools and what should happen if cases rise.
‘We’ve also put in place individual risk assessments for people who fall into the vulnerable category.
‘I’m happy with the measures put in place but some of these are things we’ve had to do ourselves rather than the government which should be providing this information.’
Warning over ‘lack of planning’ over exams
CONCERNS remain over a ‘lack of planning’ in exams.
NEU president Amanda Martin said this exists for GCSEs and A-levels, and there is a lack of financial support to help schools mitigate the risk.
Ms Martin said: ‘I know of some city schools which have spent £30,000 on measures with no additional funding.
‘The money allocated for tutors should also have been spent on additional teachers to reduce bubble sizes – as has been the case in Wales.’
Speaking previously to The News about the issue of testing, education secretary Gavin Williamson accepted the ‘incredible importance’ of quick testing of pupils and teachers and pledged to increase the number of testing kits to schools. Mr Williamson also confirmed plans for examinations to ‘run as normal’ but did concede greater support was needed to catch-up with work missed.