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Staff shortages due to a lack of access to Covid-19 tests are already reported to be affecting schools and nurseries around the country.
Thousands of head teachers have written to the Education Secretary warning that they may have to operate ‘partial rolling closures’ due to staff shortages caused by a lack of access to Covid-19 tests.
The news comes as the Early Years Alliance raised concerns about the impact of a lack of coronavirus testing availability on the childcare sector in England after receiving a growing number of reports of childcare staff being unable to work due to difficulties accessing tests, leading to widespread staff shortages.
According to government guidance, as critical workers, childcare and school staff should be given priority access to tests. However, the EYA says many childcare providers have reported being unable to access any tests at all.
Schools have been given an initial supply of 10 home testing kits to be used for staff and children who “may have barriers to accessing testing elsewhere”, with the ability to order further kits as of 16 September, but nurseries have not had any home testing kits.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “Early years providers have been on the frontline throughout this crisis, putting themselves at risk in order to continue providing the care and education that families need for little reward and even less recognition.
“The absolute least the government could do is to ensure that those working in the sector who need a test can access one without delay – and yet, it is clear from the reports that we are receiving that despite being promised priority testing status alongside other key workers, in too many cases, this simply isn’t happening.
“Worse still is that weeks after schools and colleges have been given home testing kits, those working in the early years seem to have been completely forgotten. Given that childcare practitioners spend their days in particularly close contact with young children, there is simply no excuse for this inconsistency.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it will take “a matter of weeks” to sort out the testing issues.