Parents ‘should remove children from secondary schools before term ends’

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3-min read
Students at St Columba's High School, Gourock, wear protective face masks as they head to lessons as the requirement for secondary school pupils to wear face coverings when moving around school comes into effect from today across Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Students at St Columba's High School, Gourock, wear protective face masks (Getty)

Parents should think about removing their children from secondary schools before the term ends due to high coronavirus infection rates, an expert has said.

Professor Robert West issued the warning after new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed those aged 11 - 16 were suffering from the highest infection rates in England.

This is partly due to secondary schools remaining open during the second lockdown which meant this age-group did not see a drop despite infection rates being at their lowest for three months.

Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at University College London, told Times Radio: “One of the things, I think, that some of us have been suggesting is to allow parents to take their children away from schools before the official end of term.”

Watch: Coronavirus death toll rises in the UK

The professor, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPIG-B), which advises SAGE, added: “Not to require it, because it won't be practicable for some people but where they can do that then what you can potentially get is a situation where you've got a number of days before the holiday period starts - before the Christmas period starts - where they can be, if not self-isolated at least at low risk of getting infected and therefore at lower risk of transmitting that to vulnerable people.

“I think it's something that needs to be really carefully considered.”

University students have already started heading home early to reduce transmission risk but this has not been extended to secondary school pupils.

The university student travel window will last from 3 to 9 December.

The ONS revealed on Friday pupils in years 7 to 11, along with young adults from year 12 to age 24, had high infection rates.

The report said: “Over the past week, there appears to be a decrease in positivity rates among all age groups; rates remain highest among secondary school-aged children.”

The survey suggested there were 521,300 people with coronavirus in England, equating to around one in every 105 people, in the week 22 to 28 November - the most recent dates for which data is available.

The ONS report said the percentage of people testing positive has decreased in all regions except the North East.

Rates are highest in the North East, the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 31: Pupils at Rosshall Academy wear face coverings as it becomes mandatory in corridors and communal areas on August 31, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. New rules starting today require children over 12 to wear face coverings in corridors and other communal areas in schools in Scotland. Face coverings are not mandatory in classrooms. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Pupils at Rosshall Academy in Glasgow wear face coverings (Getty)

The UK’s coronavirus reproduction “R” rate has fallen for a second successive week – and is at its lowest number in nearly four months.

Sage said the R number is now between 0.8 and 1.0, down from 0.9 and 1.0 last week.

This is the lowest R since 7 and 14 August, when it was also between 0.8 and 1.0. It went as high as between 1.3 and 1.6 on 2 October.

Yahoo UK News has approached the Department of Education for comment.

Watch: What is long COVID?