Parents angry daughter cannot return to normal classes without Covid-19 tests
- Credit: Google
Parents of a Hornchurch Year 9 pupil were left "gobsmacked" after they were told she won't be allowed to join her usual classes until Easter as they didn't consent to the school's Covid-19 rapid tests.
The 14-year-old, who attends Hornchurch High School, was told by her headteacher that failing to take a regular lateral flow test would mean she wouldn't be allowed to mix with other students, and instead will be taught in a "separate space" on the school premises.
After being strongly encouraged to reconsider, her parents said they felt "coerced at best, blackmailed at worst" by the school's decision.
Her dad said: “My wife and I emailed the headmistress back saying that the testing was voluntary as per government guidelines and she desperately tried to get me to change my mind.
"We were gobsmacked that she was trying to justify this, you can’t coerce parents into making their children undergo a medical procedure."
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He added that the pupils were sent the rapid test forms to sign "informally" via Teams messenger, without any consultation of the parents.
In an email to the family, headteacher Val Masson said: "All students who have not been tested will be supervised in a separate bubble, and will receive work for each subject, every lesson.
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"This plan will be reviewed at Easter as we enter the next phase (hopefully) of opening up social interaction."
As schools in England reopen today, March 8, teachers and secondary school students will now be expected to be tested for Covid-19 every three to five days.
Staff and students at secondary schools and colleges - including special schools, private schools and hospitals schools - are being offered two rapid tests a week.
The government said it is prioritising these schools because they face greater disruption from the spread of coronavirus.
Whole families of these children will also be able to test themselves twice a week from home.
However official guidance from the Department of Education (DoE) says the lateral flow tests are "voluntary," with no mentions of exclusions in the event of opting out.
The Year 9 girl's father added: “They [the DoE] make it clear that it’s voluntary. The bottom line is that isolating a student has consequences.
"The incident could cause bullying as well as the obvious poorer-quality education - we’re furious.”
He has asked for a "full risk assessment and justification" to be carried out in order to get his daughter back into normal classes.
Ms Masson confirmed all students would be "expected" to take a lateral flow test regularly according to government timetables and in an email to parents she said she could guarantee that no students would come into contact with anyone who is not being regularly tested.
She added that "all students will receive a full curriculum in school".
The dad said he didn't consent to the tests as they weren't "fit for purpose".
He said: “They’re not designed for mass testing of asymptomatic children, it’s a medical procedure and it requires consent.
“We don’t agree with testing of children, especially given the huge amount of freedoms that have been curtailed in the last year already."