IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

‘Virus could close Islington schools again’

Teaching union warns of new measures, as latest infection figures are revealed

27 November, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Ken Muller: ‘By the new year we are talking about a very high number of students and staff off and it could result in a number of schools closing and becoming unviable’

A TEACHING union has warned that schools could be forced to close in the coming months as the number of pupils and staff who test positive for Covid-19 rises.

At least 137 children and adults in Islington schools have been infected with the coronavirus since schools reopened in September, the Tribune can reveal.

Ken Muller, of the Islington branch of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “The monthly figure has nearly trebled since September and it’s likely to be higher. If that continues over the next two months it would be very, very serious.

“By the new year we are talking about a very high number of students and staff off and it could result in a number of schools closing and becoming unviable.”

It is understood that heads have been left in a desperate financial situation as they try to find support staff to cover teachers who are forced to isolate.

Of the Covid cases in Islington schools, more than half are adult staff, the Tribune has been told.

Mr Muller said he would like to see schools open on rotation, with some pupils learning from home, adding: “This would give more structure and mean there are fewer pupils in school at any given time.

“That would require laptops and broadband for all. This would avoid schools closing and the chaos that that entails.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Children are at very low risk from the virus, and staff are not at higher risk than those working in other sectors.”

An Islington Council spokesman said: “The health and safety of children, their families and school staff is our priority. While the number of infections has increased, they are a relatively small proportion of the total school population of pupils and staff, and the vast majority of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 this academic year are now back in school.

“There is currently no local evidence to suggest that schools are major factor in the spread of Covid-19 through the general population.

“Every school has Health and Safety Risk Assessments in place, which are quality-assured and reviewed regularly. We deal with reports on a case-by-case basis, guided by our public health experts locally, and we work through a response alongside schools to make sure it is proportionate and risk-based.

“The council continues to support schools to maintain pupils’ progress and attainment this year, whether pupils are in school or need to learn from home.”

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