Parents should make sure their children are tested regularly for coronavirus, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said as he warned youngsters not to get “carried away” when schools return.
The Government is trying to persuade parents, secondary school pupils and college students to take part in voluntary asymptomatic Covid-19 testing amid concerns that the return to classes in England in September could drive a new wave of infections.
Mr Williamson said the easing of restrictions and the return of schooling which is “closer to normality” is welcome but warned that parents and children should not “throw caution to the wind”.
Writing in the Daily Mail, he said: “At long last, we will see children once more free to chase a football around, sing in a choir or just hang out with friends. I am absolutely delighted.
“After all, children and their parents have had to put up with so much disruption over the past 18 months.
“It is important not to get too carried away with these new freedoms and throw caution to the wind. The fact that we are in the happy position we are now is because everyone has worked hard to follow the national guidelines. We still need to do so.”
Schools will still need to follow Covid precautions, with regular testing a key element, Mr Williamson said.
“Parents too have a responsibility to make sure that their children are tested regularly. I know that there are many things people would rather be doing than testing, but it’s really important to make time for it,” he said.
Department for Education (DfE) guidance states that secondary school and college students in England should be tested twice on site on their return, with lateral flow tests carried out between three and five days apart.
Pupils should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when the policy will be reviewed.
Mr Williamson’s comments came just days after experts warned that it is “highly likely” there will be large levels of coronavirus infection in schools by the end of September.
Advisers have told the Government to plan for this outcome, as it will be uncertain whether the high prevalence might be a result of spread of the virus within schools or in the community.
In a document from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (Spi-M-O), experts said the vaccine rollout – which currently extends only to 16-year-olds and above – will have made “almost no difference” to many pupils.