School staff not more at risk of Covid than average adult, study finds

Schools in England will open on March 8. Credit: PA

School staff in England are not more likely to test positive for coronavirus antibodies than working-age adults, new figures suggest.

The data, from the Office of National Statistics, offers support to the government's decision to continue the rollout of vaccines in age order - rather than prioritising frontline professions.

Of the 121 schools in the survey, just under 15% of school staff tested positive for antibodies between December 2 and 10.

This is lower than an estimated 18% of working-age adults.

The survey also found 14.6% of primary school staff tested positive for antibodies, compared with 15.7% of secondary staff.

P1-P3 pupils returned on February 22 Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Teaching unions reacted angrily to Friday's announcement that the second phase of the jab rollout would be not be based on occupation, but age.

At the Downing Street briefing, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said that prioritising by occupations would “damage the pace of the vaccine rollout so much”.

He said other occupations were higher risk than teaching, including people working in catering as well as “metal-working and machine operatives, food, drink and tobacco process operatives, chefs, taxi and cab drivers”.Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “I am amazed by the continuing dedication of school teams.

“The government has let them down at every turn.”

Free coronavirus tests will be provided to pupils’ households in England. Credit: PA

Fiona Dawes, the Deputy Director of the ONS study, said it provided them with valuable insight into how Covid-19 is transmitted in school settings.

"The prevalence of antibodies in school staff was similar to that of working age adults in the local community," she said.

"We found no evidence of a statistical difference in the infection risk for school staff."On Sunday, the Department of Health and Social Care said families with children in school or college will be able to test themselves for Covid twice a week from home under plans for English schools to reopen from March 8.Free tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether anyone has symptoms.

The rapid tests will be ordered and collected from local sites or administered through workplace testing programmes.

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