By Kevin Courtney, Joint general secretary, National Union of Education
How Sunak beat Johnson over Covid in September and how they both failed the country, and then our schools.
There was an astonishing story from the Insight team at the Sunday Times yesterday. Kudos to them for writing it.
It relates what happened in a meeting on Sunday, 20 September.
Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove wanted a two-week circuit break lockdown, as advocated by their scientific advisers. But Rishi Sunak wanted a different approach. He got his way, because Johnson was weak – and it has had terrible consequences.
The Sunday Times says there was a briefing that evening for just two ministers: Johnson and Sunak. They had four presentations – from three scientists in favour of herd immunity type strategies and one in favour of lockdown.
They were from Professor Sunetra Gupta and her Oxford University colleague, Professor Carl Heneghan, along with Andres Tegnel from Sweden. They are all outside the scientific consensus. Gupta said herd immunity could be achieved “in the order of three to six months”. Only John Edmunds of SAGE made the argument for a circuit break but Johnson gave way and didn’t go with it.
This was such a poor decision.
It led to a four-week lockdown in November, increased deaths, the chaos in schools and terrible consequences for the economy as well. It was so short sighted.
You see the same pattern around schools. If the Government had taken our advice, put schools into a two-week circuit break over half term, and secondary schools in rotas thereafter, then overall cases would have been much lower after half term and would have stayed lower much longer.
With exponential growth, you have to ‘go hard, go early’ to control it. But our Government’s mantra was ‘go late, go lite’.
As an A-level physics teacher, I would have failed a student that brought forward this suggestion.