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Barking MP demands weekly Covid-19 tests for teachers to keep schools open

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 October 2020

Margaret Hodge MP warned next year's A-level and GCSEs could be disrupted because of staff absences. Picture: Ken Mears

Margaret Hodge MP warned next year's A-level and GCSEs could be disrupted because of staff absences. Picture: Ken Mears

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Teachers need to be tested for the coronavirus every week to keep schools open.

Dame Margaret Hodge has written to health secretary Matt Hancock to demand weekly coronavirus tests for teachers. Picture: Office of Dame Margaret HodgeDame Margaret Hodge has written to health secretary Matt Hancock to demand weekly coronavirus tests for teachers. Picture: Office of Dame Margaret Hodge

That’s the message from Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge who has demanded the government provide mobile testing units to avoid schools closing.

Dame Margaret, in a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock, said: “The situation in Barking and Dagenham is particularly bad.

“While the local authority is taking every possible step to mitigate risks, they have warned me that without regular testing for teachers, it will be very difficult to keep all schools open.”

She described one school using up its 10 tests within days as “not good enough”. Whole classes can be sent home when a member of staff is out of action, the Labour MP added.

The member of Parliament suggested the borough would “happily” participate in any pilot which would see mobile testing in schools.

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“As one of the most deprived areas in London, young people in my constituency simply cannot afford to miss out on their education. We need decisive action from government to make sure this does not happen,” Dame Margaret said.

And she warned that without “swift action” it would be “virtually impossible” to hold GCSE and A-Level exams next year because of the disruption caused when staff have to self-isolate.

“Our teachers need to be tested for coronavirus every week. A failure to do so would disrupt our schools and put the future of our young people at risk,” Dame Margaret wrote.

A government spokesperson said: “We have set out our priorities for the testing system, which ensures that teaching staff can get access to tests if they have coronavirus symptoms. Those who test negative can return to work, ensuring our schools can remain open.

“NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at an unprecedented scale – 225,000 a day on average over the last week – we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.”

The government set out who swab tests would be allocated to in September.

This includes hospital patients, care home staff, NHS staff with symptoms and members of the public showing signs of the virus who are in Covid-19 hotspots.


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