Schools need ‘easy and accessible’ coronavirus testing regime, says Suffolk headteacher

Stowmarket High School headteacher, Dave Lee-Allan. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Stowmarket High School headteacher, Dave Lee-Allan. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

A Suffolk headteacher has said schools could become the “last line of defence” if they are not protected by an “easy and accessible” testing regime, with coronavirus cases looking set to rise.

Dave Lee-Allan, chair of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Headteachers spoke following a government briefing which warned of the growing Covid-19 threat.

The comments come as the fifth school in Suffolk has asked a number of students to self-isolate after a pupil tested positive for the virus.

MORE: When does your child need a coronavirus test?Mr Lee-Allan, also Stowmarket High School headteacher, said teachers are “delighted” to be back in the classroom, but added there is anxiety over the coming weeks.

He said: “Whist we are under this cloud actually in lessons, life is getting back to some version of normal and that’s been great.

“In that sense staff are desperate not to have any more disruption.

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“But, having said that, the big issue really is uncertainty.

“Government news is coming out all the time about increases to infection rates and that will affect us the same as everyone else.

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“I think there is a concern that we could be the last line of defence.

“The government has said that they are absolutely committed to keeping schools open as long as they can.

“Whilst it’s great to be back there is anxiety about us being the ones still coming in classes of 30 or school or 100 when there is clear evidence that young people can carry the virus.”

The headteacher also said there has been an increase in parents keeping children off school while they work out if they need to be tested.

Mr Lee-Allan said an “easy and accessible” testing scheme would alleviate many of their worries.

“What we are seeing is an increase in parents keeping students at home,” he added.

“Parents can be very unclear if they should keep their children at home as they try to work out if they have a common cold or if it’s covid symptoms.

“What would help immensely with this is an easy and accessible testing regime, and I think we have said that before.”

Schools across Suffolk have been working closely with Public Health England to ensure that when they have a test, the correct action is taken.

For each case, the scenario is studied to ensure that anyone at risk of catching the virus self-isolates.

Mr Lee-Allen moved to reassure parents that decisions were not taken at “random”.

He said: “There is anxiety and I think schools are adjusting day after day in terms of putting in different procedures and protocols to try and protect their students and staff.

“The moment there is a case, any school with be contacting Public Health England and getting immediate guidance from medical professionals.

“I think that is assurance to parents, if the Public Health England leaders tell us to isolate then that’s what we will do.

“That’s the important message, it’s not just headteachers on their own making random decisions.

“I would imagine that parents will be as anxious as anyone else would be with these figures and they think not only about the heath aspect but the impact it could have on everyone’s lives.”

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