Teacher 'angry and frustrated' after study suggests closures have little impact on coronavirus spread

By Rachael Brown

A teacher at a secondary school in north London said she feels angry and frustrated after a study suggested school closures did not have a "significant effect" on the spread of Covid-19.

The study by University College London found school closures alone are predicted to only reduce deaths by around 2-4%.

Report by UCL said social distancing interventions in schools rather than full school closures would be more effective.

The report claimed other social distancing measures should be introduced in schools such as increasing spacing between students in class.

It said this would be less disruptive than full school closures in helping to contain the spread of the virus.

But Kate Stockings said it wouldn't be realistic and would be "impossible" in any school to expect students to stick two metres apart.

And it was not just Miss Stockings who felt the science was "out of touch" with the reality in schools.

Many other teachers echoed similar frustrations on social media in response to the scientific report.

On Twitter @MrsMountain: "Saw this and it would me up so much! How can they expect us to be ok when the whole world has stopped. The last week of school was the most stressful of my life knowing what was coming but not being able to do anything about it.

@Mr.Vis: "Schools were imploding due to staff absences and many had to partially close. Not to mention that it now seems children are also now at risk of Covid 19."

@ElinorParrott: "My classroom can barely fit my classes in a foot apart let alone two meters."

@Alibdp: "What about those of us with underlying medical conditions? My diabetes needn't be an issue ordinarily but when you hear the medics talk.. I'd feel very vulnerable."

Researchers said the "economic costs and potential harm" of mass school closures are very high - especially for the most disadvantaged children.

But Miss Stockings said it is dangerous to explore the possibility of opening schools again whilst social distancing measures are firmly in place across society.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said the new findings from the report show that "the government must keep the decision to close schools under review."

Mr Barton admits it would be difficult to fully reopen schools while "significant number of staff have to self isolate in line with public health service."

Miss Stockings said the report shows a "lack of respect" to all teachers.

She added: "A school is not just made up of children, a school runs because of the adults that are there and we can't forget that when we are talking about this pandemic."

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London said: "School closures combined with intense social distancing plays an important role in severing remaining contacts between households and ensuring transmission declines."

Students are currently on Easter holidays. Miss Stockings fears that if "this mixed messaging" around the review of current school closures continues it could be detrimental.

A Government spokesperson said: "The decision to close schools was taken in line with scientific advice on how to limit the spread of the virus. We asked most children to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives."

They added: "Schools will remain closed until further notice except for children of critical workers and the children who are most vulnerable.

"We will reopen schools when the scientific advice indicates it is safe to do so."