Commenting on a Consensus Statement on Covid-19 by SAGE, written on 11 August and made public today (1), which argues that “exponential increases will be seen” after schools open for the new term, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"This statement from SAGE is a rebuke to Gavin Williamson. Next to nothing has been done to prepare for the possibility of large numbers of cases which will lead to lots of education disruption as children and staff have to isolate because they are positive - or stay off because their covid symptoms go on longer.
"It is only right to recognise that a large percentage of the school community is unvaccinated, and that this will remain the case for a while yet. We cannot just assume a return to normal from the start of term. The bringing together of a school community of several million will inevitably lead to a rise in case counts.
"During the summer term Gavin Williamson was conspicuous both by his absence and his silence, when cases were riding so fast in schools. It is perfectly clear to education professionals that the current safety requirements for schools and colleges are not sufficient to prevent a rise in cases come September.
"The CO2 monitors are welcome but far too late - contracts have not even been assigned for them yet. And they will be rolled out over many weeks, and will only diagnose a problem, not solve it.
"To prevent a sharp rise in cases, the watchwords must be ventilation, air filtration, masks, vaccines and vigilance.
"Gavin Williamson needs to support schools to consider face coverings from day one of term, alongside social distancing where possible, and special consideration for vulnerable staff.
"The danger is not that schools and colleges will be slow to act, but that Government is."