The only way is up?

Public Health England figures for “acute respiratory outbreaks” in schools. Reported June 25.

The trend in these figures is clear. Not quite doubling every week since additional students have returned to school; with the trend accelerating slightly.

We can be sure therefore that the reluctance of parents to send their children back – with attendance figures averaging around a third of those eligible on June 18th – has prevented these figures being worse, and the successful campaign by the Education Unions to prevent a reckless wholesale reopening of Primary Schools at the end of June will have saved lives.

There are three and a half weeks to the end of term. Extrapolating the trend in these figures would mean acute respiratory outbreaks in schools running at 80 at the end of this week, 144 the week after that, then 264 at the end of the third week and 374 by the end of term. The Summer break will then be a natural firebreak until September.

There are a number of issues with mechanical extrapolation, but its fair to say the following I think.

  1. The more students go back before the end of term, the more chance there is of an acute viral outbreak.
  2. The wider reopening of the economy – that the government has encouraged without either adequate test and trace, a functioning App tracker, clear legislation to require health and safety measures and guidelines that change with the latest pressure from business lobbies – is as likely to increase the rate of infections as have similar measures in the United States.

With the news (1) that official SAGE has advised that track and trace must be in place before widening access to schools and the absence of any credible timeline for the tracing App actually functioning, this makes the prospect of schools fully reopening in September another “cross your fingers and whistle in hope” operation by the government. Consultation and negotiation with the teaching unions and local authorities should be happening now to plan for a number of contingencies with the NEU’s 10 point plan as a starting point (2).

1.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/26/improve-test-and-trace-before-schools-reopen-sage-report-says

2. https://neu.org.uk/press-releases/coronavirus-national-education-recovery-plan

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