Schools are in a ‘precarious’ situation from Covid-19 outbreaks as more schools have to close classes or ‘bubbles’ amid a rise in cases involving the Indian variant, unions have warned.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, has called on the government to take action to reduce transfers to ensure there is no “further widespread disruption to education.”
It came after data from Public Health England (PHE) showed that there have been 97 confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks in schools linked to at least one variant case in the most recent four-week period.
This equates to about one in 250 schools.
Outbreaks of Covid-19 in primary and secondary schools are low, but in recent weeks there has been a slight increase in line with the higher levels of the Indian variant, also known as the Delta variant, circulating in the community .
Industry leaders urge government to take action to quell high transfer rates in UK primary and secondary schools (File photo)
The number of people with Covid in England rose 75 percent in seven days to 86,000 last week, official figures show, as data from Public Health England showed there were 97 confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks in schools in the past 4 weeks
The Indian variant is now believed to be dominant in the UK, with early indications that it may lead to an increased risk of hospitalization compared to the Kent variant.
According to Public Health England, a total of 12,431 cases of the mutation have been confirmed in the UK as of June 2.
This is an increase of 79 percent from last week’s total of 6,959.
Unions of school leaders are now warning the government to take action to quell high transfer rates as schools across the country were forced to close classes or bubble bubbles in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Any increase in Covid cases is of course worrying, and there are concerns in particular about the infectiousness of the Delta variant.”
He added: ‘The situation remains clearly precarious and will require very close monitoring after the half-yearly holiday. It is essential that data is more readily available in the future.’
The latest PBL data suggests there were 140 outbreaks of the Indian variant in schools and 62 in workplaces between January 4 and June 1.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, (pictured) said there are “particular concerns” about the Indian variant
Mr Whiteman said: ‘We have heard from our members that more and more schools are having to close multiple classes or ‘bubbles’, especially in areas with higher grades.
“This latest official data release appears to support those concerns.”
He added: ‘The government should be proactive and use all the provisions of the existing emergency framework to ensure that transfers in schools cannot go unchecked.
“We must not sleepwalk into further widespread disruption of education.”
dr. Patrick Roach, general secretary of the education union NASUWT, said: “The data shows that Covid cases in schools have been at the highest level for six months.
‘Every case in a school leads to a further harmful disruption of the education of children and young people.
“All decisions on key control measures to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in schools and colleges should be guided by the scientific evidence and advice to ensure that staff, students and the public are kept safe.”
A government spokeswoman said: “The turnout in schools remains high and the data shows that the measures we are taking to control the Delta variant in schools are working.
“In addition to robust measures across the country, such as increased ventilation in classrooms and containment of small group bubbles, we have increased the availability of testing for staff, students and families in high prevalence areas.
dr. Patrick Roach, general secretary of the education union NASUWT, said the number of cases in schools was at the “highest level in six months.”
The news comes as the UK has approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12-15
“We want to encourage everyone to make sure they continue to test twice a week, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
‘Regular testing is even more important because students go back to school after the May holidays to reduce the transfer.’
It came as the UK approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12-15.
The Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee (JCVI) will now decide whether children should receive the shot.