Commenting on the latest Coronavirus Infection Survey published by the Office for National Statistics, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"It is clear from these results that the National Education Union was right to stand up for safety in schools, a massive public health issue on which this Government has been consistently behind the curve.
"The Government can't seem to decide whether schools are safe or unsafe. Let this data end their confusion. Schools are clearly driving infection amongst children, and then onto the wider community. This peaked on Christmas Day with 1 in every 27 secondary-age children and 1 in 40 primary-age children infected. In London this rises to 1 in 18 secondary pupils and 1 in 23 primary pupils. These figures are truly shocking and entirely the result of Government negligence.
"Since the beginning of this pandemic the NEU's overriding concern has been to make schools as safe as possible to protect communities. The fact that the Government has consistently downplayed the risk of large groups gathering in schools without social distancing in poorly ventilated buildings and with minimal mask wearing has undoubtedly contributed to the dire situation the country is currently in.
"This week the Government has been caught widening the definition of key worker and vulnerable children, largely due to their past failures to set up adequate contingency plans in the first place. If the Government is serious about having more children at school during this lockdown it should reduce bubbles and groups sizes to minimise transmission risks. However, with current staff already fully engaged in providing remote learning to the children at home, reducing bubble sizes will require more staff. The Government should demonstrate its commitment to our young people by mobilising supply staff, many of them currently furloughed or even without pay, for this task."