Leicester lockdown ‘proves schools transmit virus’

Schools closing in Leicester over Covid-19 outbreak as teaching unions meet government officials to discuss September openings

Charlotte Santry

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The Leicester lockdown is an admission from the government that Covid-19 can be transmitted via schools and shows that safety must be "at the heart" of September reopening plans, a teaching union leader says.

Schools and non-essential shops in the East Midlands city will be closed from Thursday due to rising cases of coronavirus.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “The fact that schools will be closing in Leicester…I think that’s a very interesting admission from the government that’s got very close to saying there’s no danger to reopening.”

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Earlier this morning, health secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that schools were closing to "slow the spread" of the virus.

Dr Bousted described his response as "jaw-dropping".

She told Tes: "He’s admitted they [schools] are a cause of transmission. Then a huge amount rests on the plan for schools opening in September.”

Unions are due to meet government officials today to discuss plans for all pupils to return to schools in September, which were leaked in draft form yesterday.

Dr Bousted said: "Nobody wants schools to remain closed."

But schools won't be able to reopen fully, she added, "if parents don't feel that these schools are safe or if they become vectors for transmission because proper measures aren’t being implemented in schools".

She added: “We’ll be arguing today that any plan really has to have safety at its heart."

An effective track and trace system was also vital, she said.

Mr Hancock was asked on the Today programme whether we were still "a long way from safely opening schools".

He replied: "On the contrary, the reason that we closed schools is because of this spread and, now that we’ve got the disease under control in the vast majority of the country, that’s why we are able to reopen schools - precisely because of the action we’ve taken.

"We know what works to get this virus under control and so that’s why it’s ok to open schools in September, because it’s under control and the whole strategy, the whole plan is to lift the national measures and to have more targeted measures in the places where there are outbreaks like in Leicester but also the smaller clusters and outbreaks that we’ve been dealing with."

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is Deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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