Commenting on Gavin Williamson’s statement to the Commons about changes to Covid restrictions in education settings, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Gavin Williamson has announced an end to bubbles and self-isolation, to follow the removal of masks in mid-May, without even a replacement by daily contact testing.
“Instead, NHS test track and trace will contact children who have a positive result to ask them who their close contacts are and will then ask those contacts to have a PCR test. However, those close contacts will not have to isolate whilst waiting for that PCR test.
“Head teachers will welcome not being responsible for testing of pupils but will share the concerns of the NEU about how effective a public test track and trace system will be and how much it will control cases in schools. Schools have so far been the most effective part of the test track and trace system.
“It seems clear that the Government policies are based on a new form of herd immunity strategy - they are hoping that the increase in vaccination rates and the increase in infection rates across the summer will eventually get cases to fall simply because there is no one left to infect.
“They hope that hospitalisations and deaths will not increase, that further variants which escape the vaccination do not arise, and that debilitating illness from Covid and Long Covid does not become common in children.
“The Government should be seeking to improve ventilation in schools by providing CO2 monitors and HEPA air filters, planning mass asymptomatic testing in schools organised by PHE, and encouraging JCVI to come forward with its thinking on the vaccination of secondary-aged children.
“We can all hope for the best, but we must now plan for something that is less than the best.”