Headteacher 'deeply saddened' at end of free testing in specialist schools

Covid

A person takes a Covid test - Credit: Chris Bishop

The headteacher of a Suffolk school for pupils with complex needs said she is "deeply saddened" that free Covid testing is coming to an end.

The Guardian reported the government will stop free Covid testing in schools that cater for children with specialist needs at the end of the month as there is no funding available for it to continue.

Hazel Simmons, headteacher at the Bridge School which is a specialist school for pupils with complex needs in Ipswich, said: "We are definitely saddened by the news they are stopping the tests. Covid is very much still around and we have cases in school right now.

"Covid has really taken its toll on us. We have had teachers leaving the profession due to long Covid and the anxiety surrounding Covid.

"We have teachers that have been triple-jabbed, and are on their second or third time of having it, and this change of testing won't assist that. The staff are amazingly stoic, but they have to be well to do their jobs.

"Parents will still send their children to us because they need us to support these highly vulnerable children. 

"However they won't be able to test them and therefore they will be sending them in potentially with Covid and there's nothing they can do about it.

"More than 70% of our children are pre and non-verbal, so they can't even tell you when they fell ill."

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A spokesman from the Department for Education said: “We are now moving to living with, and managing, the virus, while maintaining the population’s wall of protection and communicating safer behaviours that the public can follow to manage risk.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the association of school and college leaders, previously told this newspaper: "Once free testing stops as the government is currently planning, the number of students and staff coming into classrooms with Covid could increase even further, and lead to even more disruption to education.

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Geoff Barton is urging the government to make a U-turn on their decision to stop free covid testing - Credit: Archant

“ Testing is one of the few tools we still have to reduce transmission among students and staff and the government must reverse its decision and continue to provide free tests to people working or studying in education settings