With UK children back at school, they've naturally started mixing with each other again. And bubbles or not, children are spreading their germs. I know this as, after 7 days at school, my 7-year-old has definitely come down with... something.


Relentless cough, sore throat, slightly raised temperature...

Her symptoms started on the weekend with an incredibly sore throat, followed by a slightly raised temp of 37.6°C. A day later, her nose was streaming and she'd developed a relentless, tickly, cough. Classic head cold symptoms. Possible coronavirus symptoms. I messaged our WhatsApp class group to see if any other kids were feeling poorly, and 4 other kids had similar symptoms.

On Monday morning I contacted my child's school to let them know my daughter was going to be off sick due to a probable head cold. The school called back to talk me through the new protocol and how I needed to do one of three things: Call 119 (the NHS Covid test line). Call my GP. Or get a Covid test. My child can not return to school for 10 school days unless this happens.

I discovered that when you call 119, they simply try and book you a Covid test using the same online system you would use at home - it's actually a number to help people who don't have access to the internet.

When you call your GP, they advise you to get a Covid test, if your child has a temperature or a cough or any of the big symptoms.

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No luck with the online booking system

So that left option 3: book a test myself. Except you can't, because as we've been hearing on the news, there are so few appointment slots, they immediately run out when they are released every night at 8pm. Trying to book at a local test centre has proved impossible for me.

So, given that my daughter was still showing potential symptoms, my next step was to head for my nearest walk-in centre to take a test,. However, I found the centre had closed overnight. I then tried the next nearest Covid centre to me 5 miles away. We arrived at 12.30pm and found the place was deserted. The person at the gate explained they issue 200 walk-in tests per day, and they quickly run out every morning. There were pre-booked tests available, but this was done by the online booking system on which I'd been unable to find a slot. He advised I return before 8am the next day to get a walk-in slot.

We arrived at the test centre about 7.40am. We found a queue of about 70 people and by 8.15am, the queue had risen to about 400 people

The next day, I got my daughter up early and we were on the road at 7.15am. We arrived at the test centre about 7.40am. We found a queue of about 70 people and by 8.15am, the queue had risen to about 400 people.

We were then told by the very nice and apologetic manager of the test centre, that the testing rules had changed since the previous day. Initially they were told to accept one walk-in every 15 minutes but this then changed to accepting no walk-ins. Several hundred people, the majority with poorly-looking kids, all then had to leave. Meanwhile, the testing tents looked empty and the only people able to pass through the gates were those with the coveted pre-booked appointments.

"Have you heard about this test centre?"

We returned home feeling angry, confused and not knowing which way to turn. Then, out of the blue, a school mum messaged on our class WhatsApp, advising of another test centre about 5 miles away that were doing walk-in tests for kids only, right at that moment. My husband dashed over with our daughter. It was empty! But then he discovered that they'd run out of walk-in tests, even though it wasn't yet 10am. Once again, my daughter had to head back home.

I then read on a social group that some people had managed to book a Covid test by putting in random postcodes, particularly those from Aberdeen. I logged on to the government site, popped in my details and added in a random postcode for Aberdeen in Scotland – only to receive a "This service is busy, please try later" message. I kept refreshing the page, and then received the message that there were no walk-in appointments but to look at drive-throughs. It then came up with 3 test centres in Aberdeen, all with approximately 250 available slots. I booked a slot and received a confirmation email with the necessary QR code. And there's the loophole – while the QR code is generated for a particular test site, it can be used at any Covid testing site.

My husband headed back to the test centre with my daughter, were granted entry with the QR code and my daughter had a test. We're now waiting for the results, but are aware there's a reported backlog of 2o0,000 tests that still need to be processed.

I'm aware I've been lucky – I know countless others are saying they can't get a test, no matter how hard they try, and some testing centres are even turning away people with QR codes

How it's affecting our children

It’s been a really tough, stressful few days, with the toing and froing from here, there and everywhere, dragging along a poorly child, and falling at every hurdle.

But I'm aware I've been lucky – I know countless others are saying they can't get a test, no matter how hard they try, and some testing centres are even turning away people with QR codes

I know that the Government has since asked people needing tests not to "game the system" as I did, and is bringing in new measures to make sure that people living in social care and those with acute clinical needs are first in the queue for community testing (NHS workers access testing differently, through hospital testing centres).

And when there clearly aren’t enough tests available for those who want them, that, of course, is right.

But the NHS is very clear on its website: children who have any of the main symptoms of Covid need to "Get a test to check if they have coronavirus as soon as possible".

So why aren't schoolchildren (and their teachers) next in line – given priority for tests after the medically vulnerable and those in care homes?

The Government keeps saying how important it is that our kids get back to school but if, every time a child or a teacher gets a sniffle, they have to stay off school for days and weeks because they can't get a test, it won't be long before most schools have empty classrooms and children falling behind with their lessons.

And, of course, for every child who's off school, there's probably a parent who can't work.

I hope those in charge will sort this out soon.

About our author

Mum-of-2 Danielle Graph is MadeForMums' Community Manager and is our amazing go-to person for looking after our lively forum community. She also writes incisive and honest articles about her parenting experiences for MadeForMums

Pics: Getty Images


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Dani Graph
Danielle GraphCommunity Manager