Labour Research November 2021

Health & Safety Matters

More needed to prevent Covid spread in schools

Five education unions last month joined forces to call on the new education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, to do more to prevent the spread of Covid in schools.

The GMB, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite highlighted government data showing that Covid-19 cases among schoolchildren surged to a record high of 102,000 on 30 September, a 67% rise since 16 September. More than 200,000 pupils were absent from school on that day.

They pointed out that many other European countries have kept “proportionate mitigation measures” in place in schools, including face coverings and quarantine of close contacts, while rolling out a vaccination programme. These countries have not experienced the “back-to-school surge” in cases England has seen.

The unions also called for the reintroduction of measures including classroom bubbles and staggered start, finish and lunch times, as well as “a relentless focus on ventilation”.

School leaders, teachers and school staff from across Wales called on the Welsh government to strengthen its approach to Covid safety in schools after hundreds attended the Wales TUC Keeping Schools Safe and Open event last month.

“Teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers and support staff are scared, overworked and exhausted,” said Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj. She said the Welsh government “needs to listen to them and recognise that they’re the experts on what’s happening in schools”.