Wigan pupils shunning Covid test stay in class with the rest

Wigan school pupils have been able to return to the classroom this week without proving they are free from coronavirus - despite testing being rolled out across the education system.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 8:33 am

Schools were closed to most children since the current national lockdown began, with only vulnerable youngsters and those whose parents are key workers allowed to attend lessons in person.

But they re-opened their doors to all children as of Monday, with the Government laying out plans to test secondary school and college students three times before moving to twice-weekly home testing. Primary school pupils will not be regularly tested.

There will be twice-weekly testing for all households with primary, secondary school and college-aged children.

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Max Atkins, joint district secretary for Wigan National Education Union
Max Atkins, joint district secretary for Wigan National Education Union

But Wigan Council has confirmed this testing is voluntary and pupils will still be allowed to return to lessons even if they have not had a negative test result.

Catherine Pealing, the local authority’s assistant director of education, said: “In line with Government guidance, we are working to ensure all pupils can return to school as safely as possible.

“Lateral flow device tests for pupils are voluntary and very simple. After taking part, it takes just 30 minutes for the results to come through and for children to then go on to their classes.

“In line with Government guidance, any pupil that chooses not to participate in the tests cannot be refused access to the school. Our schools already have well-established systems in place to keep everyone safe and testing is an additional measure to support this.”

Catherine Pealing, the local authority’s assistant director of education

Pupils who are tested will have to wait 30 minutes for their result, before being allowed to go to their lesson if it is negative.

Those who test positive for coronavirus will be told to follow the guidance for isolating and take a PCR test to confirm the result.

Max Atkins, joint district secretary for Wigan National Education Union (NEU), said education was needed to ensure people realised the importance of testing for coronavirus.

He said: “It’s for the benefit of all, not just for the benefit of the person being tested.

“I can see that staff and pupils will find it really frustrating that some pupils, possibly through misinformation, are refusing to have the test, or through parental pressure. It’s one of the issues where the only thing we can do is educate the children and parents about the testing.

“Before the testing came in, there were always people going to be walking around who were positive and maybe asymptomatic.

“The only good thing is the recent statistic that say only 1.6 per cent of adults in schools and fewer pupils are getting infected, which was a lot lower than when the pandemic started.”

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