Schools in 'precarious' Covid outbreak situation, teaching leader warns
- Credit: PA
Schools face a "precarious" situation over Covid outbreaks as pupils return following half-term, teachers leaders' unions have warned.
Former local headteacher Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "Any increase of Covid cases is obviously worrying, and there is particular concern about the infectivity of the Delta variant."
He added: "The situation clearly continues to be precarious, and will need to be monitored very carefully after the half-term holiday. It is essential that data is more readily available in the future."
With pupils set to return to classrooms, Public Health England (PHE) data showed there have been 97 confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks in schools that have had at least one variant case linked to them over the most recent four-week period.
This is the equivalent of around one in 250 schools.
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Outbreaks of Covid-19 in primary and secondary schools remain at low levels, but there has been a slight increase over recent weeks in line with higher levels of the Indian variant, also known as the Delta variant, circulating in the community.
In the week before half-term Thorpe St Andrew School near Norwich confirmed positive cases among Year 11 students.
The school, which is part of the Yare Education Trust, said as an “additional precautionary measure” students, who are completing their GCSEs this summer term, had returned to online learning.
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Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "The data shows that Covid cases in schools are at the highest level for six months.
"Every case in a school results in further damaging disruption to children and young people's education.
"All decisions on essential control measures to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in schools and colleges must continue to be led by the scientific data and advice to ensure that staff, pupils and the public are kept safe."
The UK has approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12-15. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will now decide whether children should get the jab.
A Government spokeswoman said: "Attendance in schools remains high, and the data shows the steps we are taking to keep the Delta variant under control in schools are working.
"We would encourage everyone to ensure they are continuing to test twice-weekly even if they don't have symptoms. Testing regularly is even more important as pupils return to school after the May half-term to reduce transmission."