Saxony already has it, Bavaria will introduce it after Easter: compulsory tests in schools. Will it soon also come across Germany?
BERLIN taz | The incidence values are rising and rising – nevertheless, daycare centers and schools should open again as far as possible after the Easter holidays. In order for this to work, the federal states want to test schoolchildren, teachers, educators and, in some cases, daycare children with antigen rapid tests twice a week. Most education ministers rely on a “voluntary offer”. But the calls for mandatory testing are getting louder.
For example in Saarland, the self-declared model region of Prime Minister Tobias Hans (CDU). From April 6th, people should be allowed to go to cinemas, theaters and fitness studios again – if they present a negative corona test result. “Schools are then about the only place where you can get in without a negative test result,” says state student spokesman Lennart-Elias Seimetz of the taz. “That’s absurd.”
The number of cases in Saarland is comparatively low, but they are currently rising sharply there too. Also in schools. This week 109 students tested positive for Covid-19, 50 percent more than last week. Other federal states have also recorded similar increases in schools.
Lennart-Elias, who is in eleventh grade at a school in Saarbrücken, fears that they will all soon have to learn in distance lessons again, unless they are also consistently tested in the classes. The 17-year-old sees that this does not happen every day – despite sufficient rapid tests in schools.
Problem test readiness
“In the middle school there are around 60-70 percent who can be tested, in the upper grades there are fewer and fewer,” says Lennart-Elias Seimetz. The impressions match the figures from the Saarland Ministry of Education: According to this, around 50 percent of students and 70 percent of teachers are currently being tested voluntarily.
The state student representatives receive support from the teachers’ unions GEW and VRB. If Saarland opens parts of public life to the tested after Easter, according to VRB state chairwoman Karen Claassen, “general standards also have to be observed in schools”.
The Saarland Ministry of Education sees it differently. “To enable participation in face-to-face classes only for pupils who can show a negative test collides with the right to equal treatment and the right to education,” said Education Minister Christine Streichert-Clivot (SPD) at the request of the taz. Linking compulsory schooling to a signed declaration of consent for the corona test could not be the way to go.
The fronts are similar in Saxony-Anhalt, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. Teachers’ associations or the state parliament opposition are calling for tests to be compulsory at schools, and the governments are sticking to voluntariness – although they have long recognized the problem with voluntariness.
Education office warns
In Saxony-Anhalt, for example, according to a report by the MDR, the state school office warns in a letter of renewed school closings “in the event that the voluntary tests are not accepted”. Rapid tests should therefore not be given home. In the letter, the teachers ask the school authorities to inform the students about the advantages of the tests.
Heinz-Peter Meidinger from the German Teachers’ Association doubts that that alone will be enough. That is why he also advocates compulsory testing: “If the test strategy is to be a real building block for open schools even with a 7-day incidence over 100, then the tests must also be mandatory and checked in the school by teachers or medical staff “, Meidinger told the taz.
He is aware that carrying out the tests means a lot of effort for the schools. But he does not see any other ways of ensuring health protection with the current incidence values.
So far, only Saxony and Bavaria have decided to make tests compulsory in schools: In Saxony, it has been in force in secondary schools since mid-March, and after the Easter holidays it will also apply in elementary schools and for day-care center staff. The state cabinet decided on Monday evening.
Saxony, Bavaria, who else?
In Bavaria, testing is compulsory after the Easter break in districts where the 7-day incidence is above 100. All pupils from the fourth grade onwards have to take a quick test at school. Both in Dresden and in Munich, the obligation is justified by the low willingness of students to take tests: inside and out, parents.
State student spokesman Lennart-Elias Seimetz from Saarland sees the blame for this also on the schools. “If students always miss a whole lesson because of the tests, they prefer to skip the quick test. Especially when, like now, important final exams are pending. “