Ministers urged to release data on Covid variants in English schools

Ministers urged to release data on Covid variants in English schools.

School leaders have urged ministers to immediately publish data on the number of Covid-19 variant cases being found in schools and colleges in England, as outbreaks force a growing number of schools to close or send children home.

The leaders of eight trade unions representing school staff, including the four main teaching unions, have written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, asking for the data held by the government and Public Health England to be released.

The joint letter says: “There are growing concerns around the variant B.1.617.2 and reports from areas such as Bolton that cases are growing fastest amongst school-age children, with cases in Bolton higher now than at any point during the pandemic.”

Gavin Williamson, DfE

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The group said it urgently wanted to know when PHE first shared data with ministers on the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant within schools and colleges. “Did the government instruct PHE not to release this data? If so, why?” the letter asks Williamson.

The Department for Education’s latest attendance figures for England showed a sharp rise in absences related to Covid-19. Confirmed Covid cases among pupils rose by 1,000 to 4,000, double the level since schools returned after Easter. More than 60,000 pupils were self-isolating because of contacts within their schools, compared with 22,000 self-isolating because of contacts outside schools.

Although the number of school closures remains small, in the past week the numbers appear to have increased, with some schools deciding to switch to remote learning for the final week before the half-term holidays in most places next week.

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