Commenting on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey release (1), Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“The latest ONS figures show that in the last two weeks of November education staff were 37% more likely than other workers to have Covid. This is because children were so much more likely to have Covid during that period. The ONS figure for educators is yo-yoing up and down but remains consistently high. With the Government’s predicted exponential rise in Omicron cases this will only get worse. 

“These figures explain why so many staff are having to miss school due to a positive test and having to isolate. Some may have to be off longer with more serious symptoms. 

“Teachers, support staff and school leaders are working hard to keep schools running - but the Government really needs to stand behind and help them. 

“These figures underlie the necessity of the calls we have been making for mitigations - for ventilation and air filtration, for mask wearing, for isolation of siblings of positive cases to ensure Covid infection rates remain as low as possible in schools and colleges. 

“The worry is these figures could be worse in January - and that as Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select​ Committee said in the House of Commons yesterday, this could lead to serious consequences for schools and colleges simply because there aren’t enough staff to maintain education. This is something no one wants to see. 

“The Government needs to commit to these mitigations, to accelerate the vaccination of secondary children and to seek to mobilise ex-teachers to supplement the pool of exhausted supply staff - who should be paid properly without supply agencies making a huge profit from this crisis. Governments should also direct Ofsted to stop routine inspections and to direct its staff to act as replacement teachers in schools that need them.” 

Editor’s note 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19, UK: 16 December 2021

“People working in the education sector continued to be more likely to test positive for COVID-19 in comparison with other working adults in the fortnight ending 28 November 2021; the higher risk is likely related to the recent high infection levels among school-aged children.” 

See Table 2a line 27 column C, in 16 December 2021 dataset here.