Covid cases are continuing to increase among school-aged pupils, who belong to the only age groups experiencing a rise in numbers testing positive, according to the latest data published today by the Office for National Statistics.
Data from 8-14 November shows that coronavirus infection rates have increased among both primary- and secondary-school pupil age groups.
On 14 November, 2.03 per cent of students in the Years 7-11 age bracket were estimated to test positive, compared twith 1.58 per cent on 7 November.
As for primary-aged pupils (the age bracket starting from age 2 up to Year 6), those estimated to have tested positive were 1.24 per cent, compared with 1.1 per cent the previous week.
The report says: "Positivity rates continue to increase in primary school-aged children. The highest rates are seen among secondary school-aged children and older teenagers and young adults.
"After a small decrease in late October and early November for both age groups, rates among secondary school-aged children now appear to be increasing again, whereas rates for young adults appear to show early signs of levelling off."
This data is based on statistical modelling of nose and throat swab test results and the ONS urges caution in interpreting these patterns as there is a degree of uncertainty.
Commenting on the figures, the NEU teaching union pointed out that there were 124 confirmed outbreaks in secondary schools in the week following half term. Secondary and primary schools were the second and third most commonly reported location by people testing positive for coronavirus.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The government cannot bury their heads in the sand about coronavirus transmission in schools any longer.
"There is very clear evidence that secondary-age pupils are catching the virus in school and on their way to school, and then passing it to their families. In these circumstances, the government cannot expect schools to run as normal with almost no measures to protect staff and pupils.
"The government's failure to break the chains of transmission in schools means this period of lockdown will not result in cases falling to any significant degree – we will be in the same place on 2 December as we were on 5 November when we needed to introduce the lockdown because cases were so high."
"Today’s missive to school leaders forbidding them to move to rotas is another example of the government failing to act to suppress viral transmission in schools and from them to the community. The government’s refusal to give schools any money to deal with coronavirus this term speaks volumes."
A DfE spokesperson said: “It is the Government’s national priority to keep all nurseries, schools, colleges and universities open to all pupils and students because of the clear benefits to children’s and young people’s education and wellbeing.
“The Chief and Deputy Chief Medical Officers have been clear the balance of evidence is firmly in favour of schools remaining open, and have highlighted the damage caused by not being in education to children’s learning, development and mental health.
"Children are at very low risk from the virus, and staff are not at higher risk than those working in other sectors. There is no clear or conclusive evidence that schools are playing a causal role in the transmission and spread of Covid-19.
“This ONS data only covers the first week of the new national measures. It is therefore too early to judge the impact these measures will have over the coming weeks – including our new requirement to wear face coverings in communal areas in secondary schools.
"It remains the case that only 0.2% of pupils were off school isolating with a confirmed case of coronavirus as of 12 November.”