MAT chief says school Covid safety not working any more

Harris CEO Sir Dan Moynihan suggests start of term might need to be delayed by an extra week over coronavirus concerns
22nd December 2020, 3:52pm
John Roberts

Share

MAT chief says school Covid safety not working any more

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/mat-chief-says-school-covid-safety-not-working-any-more
Coronavirus & Schools: Sir Dan Moynihan, Of Academy Chain Harris Federation, Is Concerned About The New Covid-19 Variant

The leader of a major multi-academy trust has said that schools' Covid security measures are no longer working after a seeing a surge in cases in recent weeks.

Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, said the trust had been "surprised and confused" to see an "almost exponential" rise in cases of the coronavirus among students and staff since the middle of November.

In the last week of term, Harris Federation's academies had 750 confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Sir Dan said some staff were suffering cold or flu-like symptoms and some had been unable to get out of bed for two weeks.


CovidSchools may not open as planned, PM suggests

Staggered start: DfE plan for most secondary school students to learn online in the first week of term

Warning: New Covid variant may spread 'more effectively' among pupils


He also told Radio 4's World at One show that there was a question over whether pupils' return should be delayed by another week or more in January, and said health experts would be looking at case numbers over Chirstmas into 2021.

Coronavirus: Fears about the new Covid variant in schools

Sir Dan said: "Our schools are geared up in terms of processes and procedures with social distancing, issuing of PPE [personal protective equipment], restricted movement.  All of the things that have protected us throughout the term seem not to be working in the last couple of weeks."

Sir Dan's comments come amid warnings that a new variant of Covid-19 is driving cases up in London and parts of the South East and may transmit more easily among pupils.

Earlier this month the government announced a mass testing plan for students in parts of London, Essex and Kent over concerns about Covid rates in secondary schools.

Sir Dan said: "We've got 50 schools in London and a large number of schools in South London, including those on the borders of Kent

"Certainly In the last couple of weeks we were surprised and confused to see an almost exponential rise in the number of cases. In the final week of term, we had 750 positive confirmed cases in our schools and if you were to plot this on a line graph, it is a pretty steep line from the middle of November to now.

"We couldn't really understand why because our systems and procedures are rigorous for keeping people separate and distanced.  The government's announcement about the new variant and the possible easier transmission seems to explain what we were looking at."

He said that Harris did not know if these cases were the new Covid variant, but added: "Certainly something seems different in terms of the really quickly growing number of cases."

When asked about the government's plans for Covid testing, Sir Dan said: "We think the idea of testing being proposed is a game-changer. It should allow for students and staff to be tested weekly, and where people are in contacted with confirmed cases to be tested every day for seven days.

"The question is, is it better to delay by another week or more or whether to go on 11 January, and I think the health experts will be looking at the number of cases coming in during Christmas and the new year.  

"There are no easy answers to this because, although it is a minority, there is a minority of children whose homes are such that they are better off in schools, and for the majority of pupils online learning is a poor substitute for face-to-face teaching."

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters