Secretaries Of State Confirm PCR Testing Not Mandatory In Schools
The parents of a 15-year-old pupil with special educational needs and disabilities are pleased to have clarification that PCR testing is not mandatory in schools, with their legal team now demanding that all schools are issued with updated and clearer guidance.
Updated Government guidance issued in September 2021 led schools to continue implementing policies and practices that required a negative PCR result in all circumstances when children have any of three Covid-19 symptoms before they could be permitted to return to school, otherwise being required to stay at home for 10 days.
This interpretation of the guidance was applied nationally by schools even where children with special educational needs and disabilities are physically and psychologically unable to tolerate a PCR test due to its intrusive nature.
Angela Jackman QC (Hon), a specialist public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, sent legal correspondence to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Secretary of State for Education requesting urgent clarification of the guidance and, if necessary, a revision to enable pupils with disabilities to take less intrusive saliva tests.
Last month, the Secretaries of State provided confirmation that there is no mandatory requirement for schools to insist upon a negative PCR test result and for 10 days self-isolation when a negative test result cannot be provided.
They advised that “there is not a requirement for a mandatory PCR test before a pupil returns to school after exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms. Rather, that decision is one that should be made by the school in light of all the circumstances”.
Angela, who acts for the parents of the 15-year-old pupil, has also called for an urgent revision in Government guidance to schools to make the position clear.
Expert Opinion“Our client’s school originally confirmed its view that the PCR requirement was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, namely the prevention of the spread of Covid-19 within the school. Furthermore, the school confirmed its understanding that it was mandated by Government guidance to insist upon a PCR test.
There has clearly been an understanding amongst schools nationally that the Government’s guidance required them to insist upon PCR testing. It is highly significant that the Government has now confirmed this is not the case. However, despite a request for the Government to confirm the position with schools and parents, it is currently declining to do so.
In the increasingly challenging circumstances of Covid-19 and the risk of disabled pupils unjustifiably losing significant periods of schooling, it’s high time for the guidance to be clarified to ensure the position is absolutely clear to schools throughout the country.
Our client's school has now agreed to accept saliva tests instead of PCR tests for those children with impairments which prohibit them from taking PCR tests. Our clients are relieved as this will now address the anomaly of their disabled child potentially losing further significant periods of schooling when they are not Covid-19 positive.”
Angela Jackman QC Hon - Partner
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