Roundup: teacher testing tests patience in Madrid, exam scandal haunts UK PM
Madrid Desk, Sep 2 (efe-epa).- Exasperated teachers lined up for hours outside a Covid-19 testing center in Madrid on Wednesday before the process was called off prematurely due to overcrowding just days before the school year is set to get underway.
In the United Kingdom, the exam results scandal came back to haunt the British prime minister, while the European Center for Disease Control in Brussels warned against closing schools as a measure against fresh coronavirus outbreaks.
A plan to test thousands of teachers for Covid-19 before in-person schooling resumes in Spain this week had to be abandoned halfway through the day in the capital Madrid as lines reportedly more than a kilometer long formed outside the medical center selected for the process.
Primary and secondary teachers waited in line at Virgen de la Paloma high school, one of the five centers set up to carry out the serological Covid-19 tests in the Madrid region but the only one in the city, for hours before being able to access the building.
A number of those teachers told Efe that they had been given appointments at the center as late as Tuesday night. Others said that health and safety measures in place outside the center were scant and that the situation made it impossible to maintain social distancing.
Sources from Madrid’s regional education ministry said Wednesday’s testing process had to be cut short given the lack of social distancing and the crowds that had gathered outside the center.
Enrique Ossorio, the regional education councillor, told TeleMadrid that one of causes of the problem was that teachers had arrived early for their appointments.
The Madrid government, currently led by conservative regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has plans to test 100,000 teachers and school staff before classrooms reopen for the first time since March.
Preschoolers are set to return first, on 4 September, while other age groups will be staggered throughout the month.
Spanish education officials are sticking to their plans to open classrooms again despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases, with over 41,000 being detected in the space of a week last month.
Prime minister Boris Johnson returned to the weekly Question Time session in the House of Commons on Wednesday where he was grilled by the leader of the opposition Keir Starmer over the Conservative Party government’s handling of exam results over the summer break.
School pupils are already back in classrooms up and down Great Britain and Northern Ireland but Starmer, leader of the Labour Party opposition, said government “incompetence” had threatened to derail those plans.
The government was forced to make a U-turn last week following public clamor over the way students who were unable to sit their A-levels and GSCEs because of the coronavirus were awarded grades.
Students protested the system, based on an algorithm that took the average performance of a school into account, claiming it unfairly punished those from schools in lower income areas.
“Ministers should have spent the summer implementing a national plan to get all children back to school. Instead, the last two weeks have been wasted clearing up a mess of the government’s own making over exam results,” Starmer said.
Johnson accused Starmer of not supporting the government’s plan to return children to school by early September.
Andrea Ammon, the head of the European Center for Disease Control, said school closures affected the wellbeing of children and called on EU nations to keep such a measure as a last resort in their Covid-19 prevention strategies.