The NEU says that schools should remain open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children during such a general closure period, as was the case back in March.
Pointing to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union said:
“It seems self-defeating for the Government to impose a national lockdown, whilst ignoring the role of schools as a major contributor to the spread of the virus. This latest lockdown will impose pain on the whole community – but will not be as effective as it could be without the inclusion of schools. Ignoring the role of schools and colleges in the spread of the virus is likely to lead to the need for even longer lockdowns in future”.
This possible scenario was echoed by guests on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show. Sir Jeremy Farr, director of the Wellcome Trust and SAGE adviser, said:
“If that transmission particularly in secondary schools continues to rise, then that may have to be revisited in the next four weeks in order to get R below 1 and the epidemic shrinking”.
The National Education Union called for a 2-week circuit break over half term to include schools, which the Wales Government and the Northern Ireland assembly have done – but the Westminster Government has ignored this call. As a result, more severe measures are now needed.
These latest figures from the ONS estimate that 1% of primary pupils and 2% of secondary pupils have the virus and that these levels have increased dramatically since wider opening in September.
“There’s a limit to what we can do unless we start to tackle the older years in schools where we know older teenage transmission rates are similar to adults. Jeremy Farr suggested the wearing of masks in secondary schools.
“Prolonging the planned lockdown longer than the 2 December would be devastating. We need to avoid if possible. Therefore, Government should include all schools in proposals for an immediate national lockdown and as a minimum be preparing for school rotas at the end of that period, including by actually meeting its promise to deliver broadband and equipment to those children who do not have them”.