SAGE evidence is light, but what we have

Voice welcomed publication of the scientific evidence to Government on COVID-19. General Secretary Deborah Lawson comments on the evidence. Plus BBC Radio Derby interview.

By Deborah Lawson, General Secretary, Voice

Voice welcomed publication of the scientific evidence to Government on COVID-19 published last week.  Voice members deserve to have this information to reassure them.

However, we have to recognise the fact that COVID-19 is a new virus, so any evidence will be light, and relaxation of a range of lockdown measures depends on the 'R number' , not only more pupils in schools.

Nine scenarios were considered and modelled, but the decision to use a model that hadn’t been assessed appears to indicate that the decision to push for a 1 June was made on political and economic grounds, rather than public health or education ones.

While recognising that the risk to the early education and education workforce appears to be no greater than other professionals, there is no guarantee that there is an acceptable risk of wider opening.

We therefore advise Voice members that a return to work with more pupils is not without risk, given the model used has not been assessed and that, there is no way to measure the risk level.

Voice believes there must be a local approach to wider opening of schools.  Local authorities are best placed to advise on local conditions and the capacity of the local education and health services, given regional variations in the R number.

Subject to the Government’s five tests being met, and robust risk assessments being undertaken in all settings, Voice remains of the position that schools and early years settings are in the best position to determine if they have everything necessary to be safe and to decide when it is appropriate to fully reopen.

We also urge the Government to ensure the promised track and trace testing system is fully in place by 1 June. This is essential as a mechanism of control and to reduce the risk to individuals, in order to enable schools and nurseries to accept more pupils.

Further modelling is required before more children return in September, based on the impact of June’s wider opening on the R factor.

We also hope that the evidence and guidance will be published in advance – and early, rather than at weekends or evenings, as was the case with the early years guidance – with the option to delay the start of term if necessary.

27/5/2020

Update 28 May 2020

Further information

Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE): Coronavirus (COVID-19) response  (22 May 2020)

Interdisciplinary Task and Finish Group on the Role of Children in Transmission: Modelling and behavioural science responses to scenarios for relaxing school closures  (pdf)

(Independent SAGE is a separate group to SAGE.)

PM press conference statement on the five tests: 28 May 2020
“Firstly, as I set out on Sunday, we will now reopen schools to more children. Closing schools has deprived children of their education, and as so often it is the most disadvantaged pupils who risk being hardest hit. On Monday we will start to put this right - in a safe way - by reopening nurseries and other early years settings and reception, year one and year six in primary schools. A fortnight later on 15 June, secondary schools will begin to provide some face-to-face contact time for years 10 and 12.”

Voice:

FAQs (including Planning for Re-Opening).

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

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