Covid in Oldham schools: 'We should plan for the worst', insists education union

Date published: 30 June 2021

The Oldham branch of the National Education Union believe that planning - and maybe for the worst - could be the key to local schoolchildren getting back to normal as soon as possible in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently many pupils in our Borough are missing out on valuable classroom time thanks to isolation rules meaning they have to stay at home.

Speaking on behalf of the NEU, Oldham branch Joint Secretary Nigel Yeo said: "With so much of the adult population vaccinated, the desire to return to normal is completely understandable.

"People are tired of Covid restrictions and want things to get back to some semblance of normality.

"Unfortunately however, the fast-rising number of cases of this latest Covid variant amongst young people, particularly so in places like Oldham, demonstrate that we are not there yet.

"Case rates of Covid 19 in Oldham are now highest in the 11-16 and 17-24-year old age ranges. 

"We should hope for the best - that vaccination of adults solves the problem - but plan for the worst, considering the options around mass testing, vaccination of secondary students, and improvements in ventilation for example.

"Gavin Williamson has nothing to say about ventilation or reinstating masks in classrooms, which are surely the measures he can quickly bring about.

"He has also allowed mass testing to dwindle amongst secondary children from 60% in March to just 15% today

"With its intention in September to stop school pupils self-isolating, the Department for Education is once again jumping to half-explained ideas, with absolutely no consideration of the logistical challenge facing schools and colleges, who ultimately are the ones who will have to manage the situation.

"This shows every indication of yet another summer of confusion and disarray in schools, capped off by last-minute Government guidance with inadequate time for preparations.

"Boris Johnson famously said “data not dates”.

"There is currently a pilot scheme investigating testing students as an alternative to isolation.

"A number of schools in Oldham are part of this pilot which has just concluded.

"It is essential the data is published quickly and is open to scientific scrutiny before any decision is made."

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