'Headteachers fear herd immunity is being trialled with pupils', says school think tank

29 June 2021, 16:42

'Teachers worry herd immunity is being trialled with school kids'
'Teachers worry herd immunity is being trialled with school kids'. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Tim Dodd

Education think tank chief Ros McMullen says headteachers fear pupils are being used to trial herd immunity, as schools experience a "parallel universe" to reports that all institutions will open successfully on 19 July.

It comes as new figures from the Department for Education show 375,000 children did not attend class last week for a Covid-related reason.

The Government has pledged to see if it can scrap quarantine requirements for schoolchildren by introducing daily testing in England in the autumn.

Ros McMullen, who founds the non-party political Heads Roundtable began by telling Shelagh:

"What we're hearing from headteachers is that it's worse now than it's ever been. So, heads who've never had any cases are having cases, it just seems to be ripping through.

"I think what's really difficult for heads... They are finding this complete disconnect between what they're seeing in schools, and then what they're hearing in the news, on the television statements by ministers about 'we'll be back to normal soon, we're definitely reopening on the 19th July'. It's like a parallel universe, and that's causing a huge amount of anxiety."

Shelagh then said: "There is clear scientific agreement now that fully vaccinated granny and grandad, probably mum and dad, means that children who themselves aren't very adversely affected by Covid, should be able to live a more relaxed, more normal life. Is that how schools feel?"

"I think it's the uncertainty isn't it," Ms McMullen replied.

Read more: 'Children are being blamed': Calls for change to Covid isolation rules in schools

"Because we do know that people who are double-vaccinated do get poorly. But also, some children do get poorly, and some children suffer from Long Covid. So the fact that the majority of children will only have a very mild illness or be asymptomatic, that feels reassuring, but on the other hand we know that some children get very sick.

"I think there is real concern amongst the profession that the idea of herd immunity is kind of being trialled almost with the kids, and it's just going to rip through, and this is how they're going to manage the virus from here on in. And heads are just feeling that's very irresponsible, and feeling very much in the front line.

"One head said to me 'it's like we are the care homes of this wave'."

Read more: Welsh schools free to decide own Covid rules from September

Read more: Kate Green hits out at 'interfering' Williamson over school phone ban

Shelagh then asked for a "final thought on Nick Gibb talking about mobile phones in schools", after he today said that the government are launching a consultation on how best to implement a ban on phones in school.

"Don't start me off Shelagh," Ms McMullen interrupted.

"I don't know of any headteacher who needs guidance on mobile phones, however, head teachers do need stress and pressure relief, and guidance on all kinds of other things that is not forthcoming, not least of which is examinations next year.

"The very idea that he wants to patronise headteachers by telling them how to manage mobile phones, it makes me furious! It's either because they are completely and utterly unaware and out of touch, or it's because they are deliberately deflecting - and either one of those things is dangerous and immoral."

Banning mobile phones in schools is one of a number of measures being considered by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to promote "calm classrooms".