Education unions have called for the reintroduction of additional safety measures in schools after official estimates showed around 270,000 high school students had COVID-19 last week.
The demand for action came as an expert warned of the level of coronavirus circulating in older children.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that around one in 15 children in school years 7 to 11 in England would have had COVID-19[female[feminine during the week until October 2.
It was the highest positivity rate for all age groups and up to one in 20 in the previous seven day period.
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Kevin McConway, professor emeritus of applied statistics at the Open University, said that with around four million children aged 11 to 16 in England, one in 15 equates to around 270,000 positive tests.
He said that, based on separate estimates from the ONS, that means about 13,500 could have long symptoms of COVID, and nearly 7,000 could have symptoms that limit their daily activity.
Professor McConway added: “Rather, a lot of children will see their schooling and other activities disrupted.
“I think the main action needed here is to vaccinate 12-15 year olds as quickly as possible – however, since it takes time for the vaccine to become effective, this still will not lower the rate of infection. in this group just as fast.
“I’m certainly not suggesting general school closures or anything like that, but I don’t think it’s a do nothing option.”
His comments came as five education unions wrote to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, calling on him to consider reinstating tighter security measures for schools.
GMB, Unite, Unison, National Education Union (NEU) and teachers’ union NASUWT said they are also writing to local authorities and public health directors.
Kevin Courtney, deputy secretary general of NEU, said: “We are concerned that the government will remain inactive while cases of COVID increase in schools.
“It is evident that more needs to be done, and sooner rather than later, to avoid further massive disruptions in children’s education, caused either by children contracting COVID-19 or by staff absences linked to COVID . “
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Jim Kennedy, national education manager for Unite, called on Zahawi to “reset the safe schools program”.
He argued that as winter approaches, “the whole range of measures to ensure the safety of schoolchildren must be deployed – the increasing level of infections in schools demands it”.
NASUWT said schools needed more support for on-site testing, “rather than relying on home testing, which is less effective,” and called on the government to consider reinstating the requirement. for students who are contacts of a positive case to self-isolate.
Avril Chambers, GMB national official, said the latest figures show “it is clear that further mitigation measures are needed immediately” in order to avoid further disruption to education.