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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Why it might take more than a shot in the dark on vaccinating pupils to end school disruption

Prof Whitty acknowledged that while jabbing healthy children will help to reduce the chaos schools have faced over the past year-and-a-half, he also warned that it is not a “panacea” or a “silver bullet”.

“We are confident about reducing disruption, we are also confident that this will not eliminate disruption, that is very much central to how we want to present this information,” he told a press conference on Monday.

“It reduces the chance that a child will get Covid probably about 50-55 per cent, and it will reduce the chances that a child who then gets Covid will pass it on. We expect it will reduce the number of outbreaks in schools as well as a direct effect on children.

“But we definitely do not think… that this alone is going to be the thing that deals with education issues and it’s really important that policies are kept in place that minimise, or policies are not put in place that increase, the risk that further disruption will occur.”

Restrictions slowly creeping back

Official guidance states that if just five pupils or staff members test positive for Covid within 10 days and are likely to have mixed closely, schools can step up their measures.

This could include bringing back bubbles, which have been blamed for much of the disruption in schools over the past 18 months, face masks and even sending a year group home to isolate.

Schools across the country have already started introducing restrictions, just days into the new academic year. Some have mandated face masks to be worn in the classroom by all pupils and cancelled sports fixtures, while others have sent year groups home.

On Monday, Westgate Academy, a primary school in Lincoln, sent all children in Year 4 home after 15 staff and pupils tested positive. 

Ilfracombe Academy in Devon sent home 32 of its Year 7 pupils to get PCR tests after they returned positive results with lateral flows.

Meanwhile, Princethorpe College, a Catholic secondary school in Warwickshire, reintroduced bubbles and face masks after just five days. The school also cancelled all sports fixtures with other schools for two year groups, until further notice.

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