Half-term national lockdown proposed by Sage scientists

Heads, teachers and governors support idea that a lockdown during the school break would be a sensible idea

Tes Reporter


A nationwide lockdown in October during the half-term break has been proposed as a way to contain a second wave of rapidly spreading coronavirus infection, according to reports.

Scientists from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have reportedly proposed a two-week national lockdown in October to tackle the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

The Financial Times reported that they had said a lockdown could coincide with the October school half-term.

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At the moment, more than 10 million people across the UK are living under local restrictions, covering parts of Scotland, South Wales, the North West and North East of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands, although schools have remained open unless an outbreak has been traced to classrooms.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said that further local action would be announced later amid reports that tougher restrictions are expected to be imposed on Lancashire and Merseyside.

The idea of a lockdown during half-term has been welcomed among heads and teachers on social media.

One headteacher tweeted: "Just an idea. Have a nationally synchronised half-term of two weeks in October and do a proper national lockdown then. Schools can stay open for the term as normal, but it gives a chance for the virus to be checked properly."

Responses to his tweet broadly agreed with the idea, with some pointing out that it was "too sensible" to be taken on.

A teacher and school governor tweeted that he thinks a longer-than-usual half-term, with a week of remote learning, might be on its way.

He said: "I think we’re heading for a two, maybe three-week half-term. One week pure half-term, the other remote learning. At least that would be the sensible approach."

The NEU teaching union also said it would support the idea of having a two-week half term to suppress the virus and keep schools safe.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, told Tes: "Sage may not have made this proposal if the government had acted to ensure that the conditions necessary to support school and college full opening, and most importantly an effective test and trace system, had been put in place. 

"While school staff are doing everything they can to ensure schools are safe, they are battling, in too many areas, against rising infection rates. If Sage recommends a two-week half term to suppress Covid and support safer schools and colleges, the NEU would support this."

Commenting on the development, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Obviously, the last thing we want to see is further disruption to schools, colleges, students, and families, and all we can do is be guided by whatever decision is forthcoming.

"Everyone can see that the situation is precarious, and it is incredibly frustrating that the national test and trace system, which we were promised would be fully functioning, has already fallen over under an entirely predictable level of demand.”

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