Bumpy start for staff COVID-19 tests and free laptop scheme

School staff are to be able to get free coronavirus tests for themselves and members of their household, the government has confirmed.
Education and childcare workers, including teaching and support staff, are among those on a list of ‘essential workers’ who will be prioritised for testing if they show systems of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Essential workers will be able to book a test directly online, and select a regional test site drive-through
appointment or a home test kit. Results should be sent out within 72 hours, allowing those who test negative to return to work more quickly. For full details of the testing scheme see: https://tinyurl.com/ycylhetv

The new testing arrangements were announced by health secretary Matt Hancock at a press conference on Thursday 23 April. However, a few hours after the system opened for applications on the morning of Friday 24 April, it temporarily closed, with users being met by the message ‘You can’t currently register for a COVID-19 test. Please check back here later’. The Department of Health said the temporary closure of the site was due to ‘significant
demand’.

Another area of the government’s coronavirus response which has hit difficulties is the provision of free laptops and tablets to disadvantaged pupils. On Sunday 19 April education secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the government would provide the devices to disadvantaged Year 10 pupils, care leavers and children with social workers. Schools were supposed to be able to order devices for their pupils from Wednesday 22 April, but this deadline was missed, and Williamson subsequently told Schools Week that the DfE was ‘working with suppliers to provide devices as soon as we can’ and that this would be ‘within weeks’. The delay to laptops follows significant problems with the portal for accessing vouchers for children eligible for free school meals. Schools and unions are now voicing concerns that the laptops/tablets may not be delivered until after schools have reopened, although the intention is that schools will still be able to keep the devices for pupils to use once they have returned to school.

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