Covid-19 infection rates: 1.9 times higher among teachers; 3 times higher among support staff

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Above average: Analysis of government data by the National Education Union shows higher infection rates for teachers and school leaders (Source: NEU)

Covid-19 infection rates are notably higher among school teaching and support staff than for the general population, newly published government figures have shown.

The Department for Education (DfE) has included details of staff absence for much of the autumn term within its latest weekly attendance in education data release, published on January 19.

The data includes the number of teachers and school leaders, teaching assistants and other staff absent with confirmed and suspected cases of coronavirus from October through to the end of 2020.

For example, the DfE estimates that on December 16, 4.4 per cent of teachers and school leaders and 5.9 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were absent for Covid-related reasons.

This includes 0.9 per cent of teachers and school leaders and 1.1 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff with a confirmed case of coronavirus.

The data also shows that while in early October 0.4 per cent of teachers and school leaders had a confirmed case of Covid, this figure had hit one per cent by December 17. The same figure for teaching assistants and other staff rose from 0.5 per cent to 1.1 per cent over the same period.

An analysis of the DfE’s data by the National Education Union (NEU) shows that infection rates among teachers and other school staff are notably higher than for the general population.

The NEU analysis finds that, on average, the rate of Covid infection is 1.9 times higher among primary and secondary teachers than the general population. It is two times higher for special school teachers.

For teaching assistants and other staff, the rate of infection is three times higher in primary schools and almost seven times higher in special schools.

By December 17, the infection rate in England was 306 per 100,000. This compares to:

  • Primary school teachers and leaders: 429
  • Secondary school teachers and leaders: 511
  • Special school teachers and leaders: 529
  • Primary school teaching assistants and support staff: 686
  • Secondary school teaching assistants and support staff: 243
  • Special school teaching assistants and support staff: 1,344

Above average: Analysis of government data by the National Education Union shows higher infection rates for teachers and school leaders as well as for teaching assistants and support staff in primary and special schools (Source: NEU)

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “These shocking figures raise further very serious questions about the handling of coronavirus in schools. What investigations have the DfE made into these figures?

“Why have the ministers repeatedly told school staff and the public that there was no reason for concern when these figures indicate that there should have been real concern about the much higher Covid infection rates of teachers and other school staff?

“Why did ministers deny clinically extremely vulnerable staff the right to work from home? Why has it taken ministers so long to release this data? What mitigating measures will ministers now propose?"

Pupil attendance

Elsewhere, the pupil attendance figures show that attendance on January 13, 2021, stood at 21 per cent in state primary schools and five per cent in state secondary schools.

This is much higher than during the first national lockdown last year, when primary schools reported four per cent attendance and secondary schools just one per cent.

The five-fold increase has alarmed school leaders and comes after the education secretary Gavin Williamson suggested in Parliament that pupils who have no access to technology with which to access remote learning could attend school.

The Association of School and College Leaders said the notable increase in pupils attending has put schools under “tremendous pressure”. General secretary Geoff Barton added: “It has also raised concerns about how many children it is safe to have in schools during a time in which the prime minister has advised people to stay at home and save lives. We still haven’t had a clear answer from the government on this crucial question.”

  • DfE: Week 3 2021: Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, January 19, 2021:

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