THE Coronavirus Infection Survey published by the Office for National Statistics has revealed the extent that the virus swept through the school system and its results are alarming!
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘It is clear from these results that the National Education Union was right to stand up for safety in schools, a massive public health issue on which this government has been consistently behind the curve.
‘The government can’t seem to decide whether schools are safe or unsafe.
‘Let this data end their confusion.
‘Schools are clearly driving infection amongst children, and then onto the wider community.
‘This peaked on Christmas Day with 1 in every 27 secondary-age children and 1 in 40 primary-age children infected.
‘In London this rises to 1 in 18 secondary pupils and 1 in 23 primary pupils. These figures are truly shocking and entirely the result of government negligence.
‘Since the beginning of this pandemic the NEU’s overriding concern has been to make schools as safe as possible to protect communities.
‘The fact that the government has consistently downplayed the risk of large groups gathering in schools without social distancing in poorly ventilated buildings and with minimal mask wearing has undoubtedly contributed to the dire situation the country is currently in.
‘This week the government has been caught widening the definition of key worker and vulnerable children, largely due to their past failures to set up adequate contingency plans in the first place.
‘If the government is serious about having more children at school during this lockdown it should reduce bubbles and groups sizes to minimise transmission risks. However, with current staff already fully engaged in providing remote learning to the children at home, reducing bubble sizes will require more staff.
‘The government should demonstrate its commitment to our young people by mobilising supply staff, many of them currently furloughed or even without pay, for this task.’
- The NASUWT teachers’ union is calling for all teachers and education staff in Wales to be prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine to save lives and help get children back to school.
The union believes it is ‘in the national interest’ for teachers to be prioritised in the roll-out of the vaccination programme.
Such a move is essential both to help protect teachers and their pupils and to allow the country to move to a situation where children are back in schools and colleges, minimising the disruption to their education.
As teachers and education staff are unable to practise social distancing from their pupils and few are provided with essential PPE, teachers are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary said: ‘Teachers and education staff are unable to practise social distancing from their pupils and few are provided with essential PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as part of their day-to-day roles.
‘With provision for younger age children and for children with special and additional learning needs, it is clear that there are additional risks present which are comparable to those that exist in the provision of health and social care.
‘It is right that health and social care staff are prioritised, but the NASUWT also believes that teachers must also be identified as a priority group for the vaccine.
‘Through the autumn term, we have seen a bad situation getting worse by the day. Now, at the start of 2021, the position is as bad if not worse than it was in March.
‘The impact on this generation of children and young people should not be underestimated and it is our view that everything that can be done should be done to ensure the safe and sustainable resumption of school and college-based education for all pupils as quickly as possible.
‘We have seen too much disruption to children’s education. Whilst teachers are doing everything that is being asked of them, they also deserve the same levels of protection in the face of this highly deadly and highly contagious virus.’
Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official Wales, said: ‘It is in the national interest that all teachers and education staff are prioritised in the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccines.
‘Getting schools open again as soon as possible, without further disruption, means not only that lessons need to be learned, but also that credible and sustainable solutions are implemented.
‘This means that tougher control measures will be needed to ensure workplace safety, together with priority roll out of the coronavirus vaccines to all frontline education staff in order to minimise further disruption to children’s education.’
In the North of Ireland NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, Justin McCamphill said: ‘It is in the interest of wider public health that all teachers and education staff are prioritised in the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccines.
‘It is particularly important for staff in special schools and all those working face-to-face with children and young people right now.
‘Getting schools open again as soon as possible, without further disruption, means not only that lessons need to be learned, but also that credible and sustainable solutions are implemented.’
- Heads are calling for limits to the number of pupils in school during lockdown in England, with attendance rates surging to 50% in some places.
The two head teachers’ unions, NAHT and ASCL, say the high numbers attending could hamper the fight against the virus.
The Department for Education has widened the categories of vulnerable and key worker pupils who can attend.
It is insisting that schools ensure all children who qualify can attend.
The widened categories not only include vulnerable pupils and children of workers in critical occupations but also those who cannot access remote learning either because they do not have devices or space to study.
Children of parents working on the Brexit arrangements are also included.
Teachers have described streets around schools being packed with parents dropping off their children and almost all staff having to come in and work despite the lockdown.
Heads say they fear schools could be overwhelmed by children who do not have access to lap tops to learn remotely.
Jessica Jane, a learning assistant at a school in Hampshire, said: ‘I work in a primary school where we are having to bring in every single member of staff as the list of key-workers is vast in our area and over 50% of our children are attending.
‘Our community school is not closed and streets are packed with parents morning and afternoon collecting their children from open schools. My colleagues and I are still being put at risk every single day as are our families.’
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, called the lack of limits ‘bizarre… in a week when the prime minister has told the nation that it is necessary to move schools to remote education in order to suppress coronavirus transmission’.
‘We are hearing reports that attendance in some primary schools is in excess of 50% because of demand from critical workers and families with children classed as vulnerable under criteria which has been significantly widened,’ he said.
‘We are urgently seeking clarification about the maximum number who should be in school while protecting public health.
‘This seems completely illogical given the fact that the government has taken the drastic action of a full national lockdown precisely in order to limit contacts.’