Calls for free lateral flow tests for teachers as Covid forces Stockton school into remote learning

Union bosses have called for the government to reintroduce free lateral flow tests for teachers after a Teesside school was forced to close its doors to three year groups as a third of its staff fell ill with Covid.

Ian Ramsey CE Academy returned to remote learning for pupils in Years 7 to 9 last week and has made mask wearing compulsory in common areas of the school again, after 25 of its teaching staff were off sick with coronavirus.

Headteacher, Brian Janes, explained: "The challenges on a day to day basis are tough. We had 25 staff off last week, which is a third of our teaching staff, which puts huge strain on our resources and we felt that we couldn’t keep the children safe in school with those numbers of staff."

Having adapted during the lockdowns to offer remote lessons, teachers and pupils in the North East were looking forward to returning to some normality, but according to representatives of one teaching union, there are currently nine per cent of teachers off ill with Covid, which has a knock-on effect to how schools can operate.

Simon Kennedy of NASUWT, The Teachers' Union, told ITV News: "I think the government needs to reassess the decision that they’ve taken and to reintroduce free lateral flow tests for teaching staff.

"Our figures are saying around nine per cent of staff are off with Covid and that’s having a significant impact on schools. They’re doing the best they can, but they need the additional financial support from government."

The government said it wants schools, like other parts of society to learn how to live with Covid.

In a statement, a Department for Education spokesperson said: "Thanks to the hard work of teachers and school staff, over 99.9% of schools have consistently been open this term.

"We are now moving to living with – and managing – the virus, while maintaining good hygiene and ventilation as the norm, and continuing to use vaccines to build the population’s wall of protection.

"We continue to be hugely grateful to all school and college staff for their work in keeping young people in classrooms, with their friends and teachers."