Enfield Council’s leader pledged to provide rapid Covid testing for schools as she criticised the Government over an “appalling” decision on getting children back into classrooms.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan said all students and teaching staff can get lateral flow tests at the borough’s testing sites after it became clear schools would not have the resources to set up their own tests from the start of the new term.
Lateral flow tests provide results in as little as 20 minutes, compared to a day or longer for the other type of Covid-19 test.
Schools are currently only open to children of key workers and vulnerable children for face-to-face learning and will not reopen fully until at least mid-February.
The council leader said: “The Government announced before the end of term that they wanted lateral flow testing rolled out across schools. We did a survey, and it was quite clear schools were not going to have it in time for January.
“Schools will open eventually, and my concern is we know schools exacerbate the spread of the virus. Schools are saying ‘we do not have the capacity or resources to have this set up’. We are expanding our existing testing capacity.”
Cllr Calsikan welcomed a U-turn by the Government that saw all primary schools in London closed from January 4, after several boroughs – including neighbouring Haringey – were initially told all children would return to the classroom.
But the leader said she was “appalled” by the Government’s original decision to leave some authorities off the list of closures.
“I spent the best part of last week with London leaders trying to convince the Government they had made the wrong decision,” Cllr Caliskan said. “It was really problematic and quite clearly not based on the scientific evidence or in the interest of public health. It felt like it was a political decision to try and exclude London boroughs.
“From Enfield’s perspective, thousands travel to other boroughs every day during term time, so it was quite clearly a problem.”
The council leader added that the schools closure highlighted the issue of inequalities in remote learning once again, as some pupils do not have access to digital devices.
When the U-turn on London primary schools was announced, the Government said it came “following a further review of the transmission rates”. It added that decisions on school closures were “taken working closely with Public Health England, Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS”.
To support remote education, the Department for Education (DfE) said it planned to deliver more than 100,000 laptops and tablets to schools across the country during the first week of term. It pledged that more than one million devices will be provided in total.
The DfE said the first starter packs of up to 1,000 rapid test kits would arrive at all secondary schools and colleges on January 4.
Rapid Covid-19 tests are available at the following sites in Enfield:
- Brigadier Hall, Cedar Road, Enfield
- Kemp Hall, Kempe Road, Enfield
- Klinger Hall, Copperfield Mews, Edmonton
- Southgate Library, High Street, Southgate
- Green Towers Community Centre, Plevna Road, Edmonton
- John Wilkes House, High Street, Ponders End
The DfE was approached for comment.