Northamptonshire teachers told to turn off Test and Trace apps, claims union

NASUWT claims they are facing a "wall of silence" over number of Covid-19 cases affecting county schools

Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 2:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 3:32 pm
Teachers want more clarity from the County Council over how Covid-19 is affecting Northamptonshire schools. Photo: Getty Images

Teachers and parents are calling for more transparency on how Covid-19 is affecting Northamptonshire's schools.

Mums and dads say they want enough information to make their own choice over whether to send their kids to schools.

And teaching unions claim they are facing a "wall of silence" over the number of coronavirus cases in the county's 370-odd schools.

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Alan Hackett, of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said: "The way it's being reported to us, we're not aware if staff are away from school because they have had a positive test or are self-isolating because of test and trace.

"The county council is not being open enough. You need to look hard to find the statistics and when you do the analysis and explanation is not as robust as it should be," he said.

"The response has been really sporadic all over the county.

"We have had reports of one school where staff were told to turn off their Test and Trace apps. And the two-metre rule is now virtually non-existent in schools.

Four of the schools known to have sent students home following Covid-19 cases either side of half-term

"We are challenging the health and safety aspect of this. Schools are certainly not big enough to cope with two metres when full and then you have to square the circle of keeping air circulating but not freezing kids to death in winter.

"Many classrooms have fans, but they just push Covid around the room."

READ THIS: Parents plea for more clarity over what's going on in coronavirus-affected schools across the countyThis newspaper has learned of a primary school where four out of six year group bubbles are currently closed for two weeks.

Four schools — Northampton International Academy, St James CE Primary and Weston Favell Academy in Northampton, and Henry Chichele Primary in Higham Ferrers — were closed completely with 3,500 students sent home ahead of the half-term holiday.

Other secondary schools are currently working with part of multiple year groups in school while others are doing their learning online at home.

County council education officials publish limited data weekly on schools affected by Covid-19.

Last Friday's report gave figures up to November 8 — the first week after half-term — which showed 100 per cent of schools were open and 91 per cent of children were attending compared to 94 per cent at the same point in 2019.

It also revealed 19 outbreaks at schools since October 12. An outbreak is defined as two or more Covid cases linked by time and place, so does not include schools which have seen single cases or multiple positive tests among different year bubbles.

When asked by this newspaper how many schools have been forced to send children home due to the pandemic since September, a county council spokesman said: "Due to the variation in pupil numbers between schools across the county and indeed between primary and secondary schools it is much more accurate a metric to give the general public the percentage of pupils affected rather than the number of educational establishments."

Yet one parent posted on the Chronicle & Echo Facebook page this week: "My son is in reception and was been self-isolating for two weeks, two weeks ago. Then he went back to school for ten days, but another Covid case was reported so he's isolating another two weeks.

"Keeping schools open just to shut down classes every time a case is reported is a complete nonsense."

And another mum, who works in a school, added: "Lots of staff are having to isolate due to other staff having contracted the virus, then passing it on.

"Schools are running on skeleton staff yet they are clinging on and staying open despite the risk to more of their staff."