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Headteacher: Schools and parents badly let down by ‘incompetence’ over testing

PUBLISHED: 09:35 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:16 17 September 2020

Headteacher at Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market, Matthew Try. Photo: Matthew Try

Headteacher at Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market, Matthew Try. Photo: Matthew Try

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Headteacher at Hillcrest Primary in Downham Market, Matthew Try, describes his anger at how the testing system has let down schools and parents.

Headteacher at Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market, Matthew Try. Photo: Matthew TryHeadteacher at Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market, Matthew Try. Photo: Matthew Try

Schools were rarely out of the news headlines during June and July as an ongoing debate raged about the feasibility of pupils across the country returning en masse in September.

The government reassured schools that a robust system of testing would be in place for the start of the new school year.

On the basis of those reassurances, the profession felt confident that it could return in September and parents felt confident that they could send their children back.

The testing regime is under pressure and has not been able to deal with an increase in demand from the return of schools. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireThe testing regime is under pressure and has not been able to deal with an increase in demand from the return of schools. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

But teachers and parents have been badly let down by the government.

A spike in demand for tests appears to have come as a complete surprise to the government.

You send hundreds of thousands of staff and students back to school, giving schools guidance which states that they are to send children home when they display symptoms, and you don’t prepare for a spike in demand?

This smacks of incompetence at the heart of government.

It is this incompetence that schools are now fighting against as rightly frustrated parents look for an outlet for their frustrations.

The irony is that a government which values the education of our children so much that they made planning for its immediate future a priority throughout the summer, have masterminded a system that does not allow children to return.

It will actually see schools deliver a far more patchy provision to children as teachers have to deal with an ever changing dynamic in their classrooms.

See also: Stop coming to A&E to get a test, hospital warns

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We are only in week two of the academic year and a cold is already doing the rounds as children who have mixed with few others for several months, come back together.

The national programme of testing that was promised would have dealt with this.

The reality is that by the time Matt Hancock’s promise of the system being fixed within the next few weeks materialises, schools will be in the depths of the autumn term with coughs and temperatures a common feature amongst the children.

After a great start of 95pc attendance in week one, we dropped quickly to 91pc attendance in week two.

These frustrations are not about the many social distancing restrictions that schools are currently dealing with.

The frustrations are borne out of a disappointment that those in power have promised much throughout this health crisis before considering the real implications for schools and parents.

See also: How I was told to game the system to get a test

Gavin Williamson’s latest statement to the press about schools being able to order home-testing kits is a further disappointing attempt to divert attention from the disaster they have made of the testing programme back onto schools.

This will drive up parental expectations of what their child’s school should be offering at a point when the DfE cannot even tell us how many tests each school will get and when the kits will arrive.

It will only take a very small number of teachers to be absent with symptoms and awaiting a test appointment for our school to close, either in full or in part.

We are working hard to ensure that isn’t the case as the children have missed enough schooling in recent months, but a school cannot function without staff.

I predict a rocky road in the months ahead and its in the hands of the government’s testing programme to smooth out the bumps if the autumn term isn’t to be plagued by unnecessary disruption.


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