Daily testing for Covid-19 is to be paused in schools due to new health advice and the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

A spokesperson for the Government said: “Since the announcement of the schools testing programme in December, we have seen the emergence of a new variant of the virus which has become dominant in the UK.

“The variant has been shown to have increased transmissibility and causes higher secondary attack rates.”

The spokesperson added that given the variant “has higher rates of transmission and hence generates a higher secondary attack rate – and that the pandemic has entered a new phase – the balance between the risks and benefits for daily contact testing is unclear.”

Meanwhile, schools are expected to open from mid February, deputy chief medical adviser Jenny Harries has said.

Headteacher of William Howard School, Chris McAree said: “We continue to weekly test our staff using the Lateral Flow Tests and indeed we also ask the students attending our Critical Worker and Vulnerable Student provision to have a weekly test as well. What they are telling us to not do is daily contact testing.

“Before the lockdown, if we got a positive case as a school we would notify close contacts and they would be informed and leave school that day, being required to isolate for 10 days starting the day after they last were in contact with the person. Given that the policy was one that was devised prior to Christmas, in light of the information they have about the new variant, it is right that they take a step back and do some further work."

Louise Atkinson, junior vice-president of the National Education Union said that the U-turn is “So frustrating.

"We’ve been asking these questions of Government as a union for some time. We’re in full support of a properly run system, we’re the professionals that know whether it works on the ground.”
Although she said it was “the right decision at this stage.”  

Teachers were working over Christmas to put preparations for the contact testing programme in place.

She called it: “a waste of money and a waste of time. These are dedicated professionals who care desperately about their jobs and they’re on their knees.”
The union vice-president and Carlisle teacher said that the Government are resisting “communicating with us, the professionals.”

Louise added that teachers should be able to focus on providing support to their students during the pandemic.

Speaking on if schools should open she said: “While this virus is circulating within the community, schools need to remain closed, as long as it takes protect the community.
She said: “To me, right from the start a good test, track and trace system should have been put in place.”