High schools in England have been urged to provide on-site Covid lateral flow tests to students ahead of the new term

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said face-to-face learning “will continue to be the expected norm” in England

Secondary schools in England have been asked to provide capacity for Covid testing on site before students return to class this week.

The government has said it wants students aged 11 to 16 to undergo lateral flow tests before the new term in order to keep schools open during the Omicron Covid wave.

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Lateral flow testing is seen by the government as a way to maintain face-to-face learning in the wake of the Omicron Covid wave (Image: Getty Images)

What was announced for schools

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced the new measures on Sunday January 2.

He said they were introduced because the government wanted to “reassure a bit” and ensure that “face-to-face teaching [would] continue to be the expected standard ”.

Mr Zahawi added that schools and colleges would also have better access to tests that could be taken by students at home through a “different supply route” than that used for testing for the general public.

In addition to offering tests and enforcing the wearing of masks, the DfE also pledged to provide educational institutions with 7,000 additional air purification units to improve ventilation in teaching spaces.

Meanwhile, 12 to 15 year olds are encouraged to receive their second Covid vaccine and 16 to 17 year olds are now eligible for a booster dose.

Mr Zahawi also called on school leaders to consider merging classes or sending groups of children home if the number of employees on sick leave due to Covid reaches critical levels.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, the Education Secretary said: “The painful lesson we learned was that when children were not in school, the impact on their mental health and, well sure, about their education, was quite important.

“This is why I am so determined, just like the Prime Minister, to make sure that education remains open and that children are in the best place when they are in class, with their friends, learning. in front of a teacher. “

And speaking to Sky News, he said the new measures would not be in place “a day longer than we need.”

The news that masks should be worn in schools in England has had a mixed reaction (Image: Getty Images)

What was the reaction?

While there was not much reaction to the announcement of the tests, the news that masks should be worn at school has had a mixed reaction.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the Commons Education Select Committee, said he was concerned the move could harm children’s mental health.

But Wes Streeting, Labor’s shadow health secretary, said he would rather face coverings worn in classrooms than children trapped at home.

Leading education and education unions have said rules on face masks are “overdue” and called for making it “a requirement”.

National Education Union deputy general secretary Dr Mary Bousted also called the air purifier’s announcement “completely inadequate” given that there were “over 300,000 classrooms in England”.

Covid situation

It all comes as 137,583 more laboratory-confirmed Covid cases were recorded in England and Wales at 9 a.m. on Sunday, according to official figures.

That was down from the 162,572 cases recorded on Saturday in England alone.

It was reported on Sunday January 2nd that the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust had declared a “critical incident” linked to “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages.

And in Wales, Morriston Hospital in Swansea said it could only provide ‘limited service’ in its emergency department over the bank holiday weekend due to staff pressures ‘made worse by Covid’ .

NHS supplier general manager Chris Hopson said staff were working ‘hard’ and the NHS was under ‘arguably more pressure’ compared to the same time last year.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that there are now 174,000 registered deaths in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

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