Covid cases on the rise among teachers

·4-min read
An empty classroom (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Archive)
An empty classroom (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Archive)

Covid cases are on the rise amongst the school workforce, the latest figures show.

Data linking the School Workforce Census to NHS Test and Trace and National Immunisation Management Service (NIMS) data found that staff in both primary and secondary schools had higher rates of positive tests in the spring 2022 term compared with the autumn term in 2021.

The Office for National Statistics data also found that primary school staff had higher rates of positive test cases across both terms.

Primary teaching assistants were most likely to test positive in the spring term, while headteachers and deputy heads were the least likely staff members to test positive for Covid over both terms.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

The data showed that vaccine uptake amongst school staff was higher than across the wider adult population of the same age, including those who had had a second or third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Staff who had had a third dose of the vaccine prior to the start of the spring term in 2022 were less likely to have tested positive in comparison with those who had had two doses.

For classroom teachers, 19.8% of primary teachers and 12.4% of secondary teachers had a positive test in spring 2022.

Head and deputy head teachers in secondary schools had the lowest percentages with a positive test in both autumn 2021 (8.4%) and spring 2022 (9.0%) compared with staff in other roles, the ONS said.

Primary teaching assistants had the highest rates of positive tests in the spring 2022 term (22.0%) compared with other staff members.

Secondary school staff were 29.3% less likely to report a positive test than primary school staff in spring 2022, when other variables had been adjusted for.

A Covid test (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
A Covid test (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Alison Judd, lead analyst of the Health Surveillance and Insights division at the ONS, said: “Our latest data show an increase in positive Covid-19 tests amongst staff in both primary and secondary schools, in line with the current picture across the UK.

“It is encouraging to see a high vaccine uptake amongst school staff, hopefully protecting many from severe symptoms should they become infected.”

Shamez Ladhani, Consultant Paediatrician at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “These findings offer valuable insights into how testing and reporting behaviour is affected by ethnicity and social deprivation and will deepen our understanding of how to address future health crises.

“Addressing inequality is essential to managing future outbreaks and ensuring the offer of vaccination is taken up by those who are most at risk.”

The data showed that Chinese, Indian and White British staff were more likely to have had two or more doses of the vaccine.

Data for pupils aged 5 to 15 for spring 2022 showed that pupils in primary and secondary schools were more likely to have a positive test than in the autumn, with 16.1% of primary pupils testing positive compared with 14.2% in the autumn term, while at secondary school 27% tested positive compared with 21.5% in autumn.

White British pupils were most likely to test positive as a proportion of their population, with 18.6% at primary and 29.8% at secondary testing positive in sprint 2022.

The data showed that primary and secondary pupils from deprived areas were less likely to test positive.

In total, 11.8% of primary pupils and 21.6% of secondary pupils from the most deprived areas tested positive in spring 2022, compared to 21.5% of primary pupils and 33.2% of secondary pupils in the most affluent areas.

The data, produced up to 6 April, showed that March 31, 26% of secondary school pupils had two or more positive tests compared to only 4% of primary school pupils.

Pupils testing positive in spring were less likely to report symptoms at the time of the positive test compared to the autumn.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said: “This matches what we have been hearing from our members. Covid has absolutely not gone away, and in fact we are hearing that cases have been on the rise again recently – in line with numbers nationally.

“That makes staff absence a concern. And while the summer holidays are coming up soon, there is already worry about the autumn and winter. The government can’t just leave schools to it in dealing with Covid.

“Learners need and deserve better than that. We need a proper plan for how to live with it long term that is focused on keeping levels low and reducing disruption.”

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