Call for action to reduce rising infection rates in secondary schools

Student wearing a face mask in a school classroom

An education union is backing calls for better safety measures in schools. - Credit: Pixabay

An education union is supporting calls for urgent action to make schools safer due to rising coronavirus rates in teenagers. 

Infection rates among secondary school pupils have increased 50-fold since classrooms reopened in September, with one in 10 reported to be off school because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. 

Scientists with the Independent Sage group warned that teenagers risk bringing the virus home to parents and grandparents who may be more vulnerable.

The group has published a guidance document with recommendations on how to reduce infections in schools. 

The National Education Union (NEU) is backing the group and calling for urgent action. 

Jonathan Reddiford, chairman of NEU North Somerset, said: “This is a welcome intervention by Independent Sage, which once again exposes the enormous blind-spot that Government has towards schools.  

“The consultation document raises many issues which must now be seriously considered.

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"It is quite clear that schools and colleges need much stronger safety measures. 

“There are ways in which schools can be made safer.  

“We gave the Government a roadmap in June, including advice on expanding school sites to get class sizes down, encouraging teachers back from retirement, and a proper, effective test track and trace system.  

“They have delivered on none of this, and have instead given schools late guidance, a helpline that provides inconsistent messages, and the staggering suggestion just this week that NEU members should 'hold their nerve' as staff and pupil attendance deteriorates and schools struggle to remain operational.  

“Schools have been abandoned by this Government.” 

The NEU wants bubbles in secondary schools to be reduced and has suggested the possibility of a rota system. 

Mr Reddiford added: “There is no sign of a rethink, but there really has to be.  

“Schools and colleges are now a major centre of transmission of Covid and ministers cannot continue to duck the issue.  

“The Government is blindly pressing on doing very little if anything to keep schools as safe as they need to be.   

“Its lack of positive action is causing confusion, secrecy, mistrust, fear, demoralisation and exhaustion.” 

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