Williamson says schools in England have testing kits they can use
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said schools should rely on their “unique” supply of testing kits to avoid situations where staff and students were unable to access tests. Speaking to the Commons education committee, he said:
We’ve always been conscious that with children coming back into schools there is going to be a situation where people would need to have more access to testing, that is why we ensured deliveries of tests to every single school in England.
Asked to guarantee that staff and pupils could access tests locally within 48 hours, Williamson said:
Schools are, I think, the only organisation that actually has a set of testing kits that’s been sent to them directly, in order to be able to ensure that if they’re in a situation where someone isn’t in a position to be able to get a test, that they actually have testing kits on site in order for them to be able to enable access.
And that’s something that is quite unique and very important.
Williamson’s comments referred to the 10 testing kits that were sent to all schools in England at the start of term, with the Department for Education announcing yesterday that they could reorder a further 10 within 21 days. The set of 10 has been given to schools regardless of size, and heads with 1,000 or more pupils on their rolls have called the number inadequate.
Earlier this week a number of headteachers complained they had exhausted their supply of kits.
The DfE’s own guidance states that individuals should first try to be tested through other routes, and that school testing kits “should only be offered in the exceptional circumstance an individual becomes symptomatic and you believe they may have barriers to accessing testing elsewhere”.
Williamson said that “there is a recognition that [testing capacity] needs to continue to grow”, and added:
This week I met with Baroness Harding from test and trace and the NHS, and she highlighted concerns schools have had in terms of turnaround, and to ensure that teachers are able to get tested as swiftly as possible, and they’re able to be in a position to be back teaching at the earliest possible stage.
Robert Halfon, the education committee’s chair, asked Williamson: “You’ll obviously be aware that schools are expressing that they can’t get hold of tests for their staff, or they are being told to travel long distances, and that’s one of the reasons why they’re saying some schools are closing?”
This is why we’re always working very much with test and trace, and working with them in terms of making sure that they have the capacity that’s available for both teachers and pupils, but also this is why we ensure that all schools have a set of tests that if they were needed.
Starmer out of self-isolation after child’s test comes back negative
The Commons foreign affairs committee is launching an inquiry into camps in which at least a million Uighurs have been incarcerated by the Chinese authorities.
Among the issues it will look at is ways the government can prevent UK companies from benefiting from the forced labour of members the Chinese Muslim minority detained in Xinjiang.
Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the committee, said:
The mass detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang has horrifying echoes of the 1930s. There have been similar atrocities since, and each time the world has promised to never allow such violations to happen again. And yet, we now have clear, undeniable evidence of the persecution of more than one million people in these so-called re-education camps.
This inquiry will focus on key questions about what the UK can do to exert its influence and the steps the new FCDO will take to fulfil its goal of making our country an ‘active, internationalist, problem-solving and burden-sharing nation’.