Education unions call for data on Indian variant in schools amid growing concern

Education unions call for data on Indian variant in schools amid growing concern


Education unions call for data on Indian variant in schools amid growing concern

Education unions call for data on Indian variant in schools amid growing concern

The government has been urged to publish data on the Indian coronavirus variant in schools amid growing concern over its spread and a “dearth of information”.

The call came as new data suggested the number of schoolchildren with a confirmed case of Covid-19 jumped by a third in the space of just over a week.

The government also estimated thousands of more pupils were self-isolating due to potential contact with a coronavirus case last Thursday – when the last available data is from – compared to the week before.

Paul Whiteman from the school leaders’ union NAHT said it was “still far too soon to be complacent” about relaxing safety measures in schools.

“There is growing concern about the spread of the Indian variant in schools. The government must make the data they hold on this public without further delay,” the union’s general secretary said.

“Schools need transparency about the levels of infection around the country so they can make sure they have the right measures in place for their local area.”

Another education union leader called for more information on how the variant first detected in India, which has sparked alarm in the UK, has affected educational settings.

After the release of the latest attendance figures, Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said Covid-related absence in England “is said to remain low overall”.

But he added: “We are increasingly concerned about the dearth of public health information about the impact of the Indian Covid variant in schools and colleges.

“Despite repeated requests for data on its incidence in education settings, this has not been forthcoming from the government.”

Areas that have been worst-hit by the new variant have been issued with new advice, telling the public to avoid travel in and out of their zones unless for essential reasons – which includes for education – and to socialise indoors where possible.

The government said the changed advice for eight areas – including Bolton, Burnley and Leicester –was due to the variant, which it said “spreads more easily from person-to-person”.

Mr Barton from the ASCL said the new guidance discouraging travel in and out of certain parts of the country “will inevitably further raise concerns among staff, students and families”.

“The government has to understand that many members of staff in schools and colleges are either unvaccinated or have not yet received a second vaccination, while the vast majority of students are not vaccinated at all,” he said.

“It is essential that there is full transparency about the impact of the new variant in schools and colleges so that the level of risk is clear and any necessary protective measures can be taken.”

On Tuesday, government data estimated around 4,000 pupils in secondary schools were not in attendance last Thursday due to a positive Covid-19 test – up from 3,000 the week before.

The Department for Education (DfE) also estimated 18,000 pupils were out of school with a suspected case of coronavirus on 20 May after putting the figure at 17,000 on 12 May.

The number of students thought to be self-isolating due to potential contact with a Covid-19 case jumped from 65,000 on 12 May to 88,000 on 20 May, according to government figures.

As part of the 17 May step of England’s roadmap out of lockdown, the government scrapped advice telling secondary school pupils to wear face masks in classrooms and communal areas.

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.


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