Since pupils returned to schools across England this autumn, The Department for Education (DfE) have been keen to reassure parents and teaching staff that schools are safe for both students and themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is a growing worry surrounding the implementation of school ‘bubbles’ and how safe they actually are. This is backed up by the latest absence figures showing the highest number of children off school since World War 2.
A school ‘bubble’ doesn’t consist of a full class of children or year group. In reality, these bubbles consist of children they travel to and from school with, and the children with whom they spend their breaks and lunch with.
In the classroom environment the bubble only consists of the two people sitting at either side of the pupil, but not in front or behind them.
School classes aren’t reduced in size nor are the children spaced out more. It would be impossible to do this because school classrooms are full with no spare accommodation to move into. Yes community centres and town halls could be utilised, but not withstanding the cost s involved in this, there’s also the lack of teaching and support staff.
There’s absolutely no regard given for other children in the class because they all belong to different bubbles even when they’re sat next to each other for most of the day.
Even less regard is given to the wellbeing of teaching staff and school employees.
Yesterday, my daughter was sent home from school because someone in her bubble had tested positive for COVID-19. Today her friend has developed symptoms. Thus proving the notion that children can’t catch COVID is wrong. Children can and do catch it and some become very ill.
The UK Government appears to be very unconcerned about this. They state in their Government guidelines:
“In relation to working in schools, whilst it is not possible to ensure a totally risk-free environment, there is no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults, and no evidence that staff in education settings are at any greater risk of fatal outcomes than many other occupations.“
This is completely negligent on their part. In this statement they fully admit that children can transmit COVID-19 and that they can infect their teachers, teaching assistants and school staff.
Lets not demonise our children though. They haven’t made the choice to go to school knowing that they could infect someone. The government has made this decision and therefore they’ve put others at risk.
An Invisible Killer
The COVID-19 virus is airborne and infects the upper respiratory tract. This means that as soon as it has infected one person, it’s breathed back into the air where it can drift quite happily from person to person. In a tightly packed classroom, you can imagine how quickly it spreads.
The virus is at its most contagious before it causes symptoms, asymptomatic, meaning that the those infected feel well enough to go to school and work and therefore able to infect others. With a lack of mass a d rapid testing, even locating a localised breakout is hard, if not impossible before it’s too late.
This very concerning as we have already seen that school corridors are often very crowded with children moving between classes and also at break times. Indeed, my daughter describes that it is like this at her school.
It would be very naive to also think that every child wears a mask correctly and that they all use the hand sanitizer offered. In-fact even adults are starting to lax in how well they’re adhering to the guidelines.
This creates the perfect COVID-19 breeding ground. Many scientists believe that school closures for older children are necessary.
This would help to bring R below 1 due to high infection rates among teens, along with closing pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops.
Pubs and non essential shops were shut for the second lockdown, but schools weren’t.
There a some epidemiologists who believe this lockdown will be ineffective unless schools are closed. Right now children are returning home from school and infecting family members. Given that the government is considering easing mixing rules for Christmas, the potential for driving up infection rates is potentially high.
Official figures show that COVID-19 cases in the Year 7 to Year 11 age group in England increased 50 times between 1 September and 23 October, from 40 to 2,010, despite schools operating a system of bubbles for classes or year groups.
Yet the Government in Westminster still refuses to shut schools and put the wellbeing of children, teaching staff and school employees first.
It’s almost impossible for teachers to stop the mingling of bubbles and years groups. There isn’t the room to do so in our already crowded schools.
Teachers are bearing the weight of more responsibility than ever right before – meaning stress levels are high and exhaustion common. Many teachers are becoming ill. Over 60 education staff died in the first wave which covers until May, and still the government refuses to listen to them and their union the National Education Union in their request for school closures.
Forcing schools to keep children in lessons up to one week before Christmas and then allowing households to mix for five days in the holiday season, could ultimately lead to the deaths of vulnerable and older relatives. The government appears to be wedded to the decision to keep schools open Jo matter the consequences, with the Labour Party no different.
The ideal solution to stop the further spread of COVID-19 over Christmas would be to shut schools, initiate online learning and to give paper homework for those without access to the internet. Combined with a tougher lockdown this would prevent illness and deaths, and alleviate the pressure upon the NHS in what is going to be a challenging winter.