By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
At least 51 schools across the county have reported coronavirus incidents and a Kent school boss says teachers should receive test results within 24 hours.
Around 40% of all cases recorded since the start of the full school return in September have taken place in Thanet, Canterbury and Swale.
Thanet cases have been recorded at Royal Harbour Academy and St Ethelbert’s Catholic Primary School.
Kent County Council says over the last five weeks it has also been told about 16 cases in north Kent schools, including Gravesend, Dartford and Sevenoaks.
Another 10 have also been reported at sites in Malling, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells alongside five schools in Dover, Folkestone and Ashford.
Currently, schools are limited to 10 Covid test kits to share out with hundreds of staff and pupils.
Alan Brookes, who is the chair of the Kent Association of Headteachers, has warned that testing must improve as the growing “big pressure” faced by schools is linked with teachers needing to self-isolate.
Mr Brookes said the absence of specialist staff due to Covid can affect the groups of between 300 and 400 students that they teach.
He said: “I know teachers are one of the priority professions listed for testing, but it’s really important they can get access to one and receive results within a day.
“That way they will miss 24 hours of teaching instead of between three and four days, which then becomes a big problem.”
He added: “We had one specialist teacher who had to wait for a week for the test result to come back.”
Mr Brookes said a knock-on effect was needing to hire supply teachers, who are “hard to find”. He adds that schools have received no extra cash from the Government to finance any temporary staff.
Cllr Trudy Dean (Lib Dem), who is KCC’s main opposition education spokesman, said the rising Covid numbers were not “unexpected” and said: “The majority of the cases seem to be amongst adults rather than children.”
She added: “A better track, test, trace system is necessary and it has always been essential that teachers get regularly tested.”
KCC’s education director, David Adams, said the “most significant” Covid case numbers had occurred at secondary schools.
Mr Adams said: “We are seeing at secondary level significant numbers of pupils and staff potentially out of school for a couple of weeks.
“We hope that position might change if there is an increase in test capacity.”