Teaching union members are demanding strict measures to stop the spread of covid in schools, saying staff are struggling with wellbeing over fears of catching the virus and having to undertake “excessive” cover for sick colleagues.
Last week, 321 new cases among students were discovered and 37 among staff – around double the amount from the previous week.
This week on Wednesday alone, 44 cases of covid were identified.
In response to the rapidly rising covid rates, NASUWT has written to Education Minister Scott Wickenden, calling for:
In the letter, General Secretary Patrick Roach lamented that “what little mitigations exist are being weakened, rather than strengthened”, citing the decision to remove PCR tests for direct contacts in schools as a decision that left NASUWT members “shocked and dismayed”.
Noting that “schools are the only places now where large groups of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people congregate”, he went on to explain that teachers’ mental health is suffering.
“Teachers are experiencing significant increases in workload due to staff absences and being required to undertake excessive cover. This, combined with fear of contracting the virus, is having a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of staff, and there is a clear risk that the COVID-19 pandemic will be followed by a work-related stress epidemic in schools, and one that will be made all the worse if significant numbers of staff are unable to travel off-island at Christmas due to infections contracted in school,” Dr Roach warned Deputy Wickenden.
Pictured: Students and school staff are being urged to take part in frequent lateral flow testing.
Commenting on the union’s demands, Dr Roach said: “Schools in Jersey currently have some of the lowest levels of Covid safety mitigations. Face coverings, though recommended, are seldom worn by pupils in communal areas. Carbon dioxide detectors have not been rolled out in the same way as in other jurisdictions and now the requirement for close contacts in schools to take a PCR test has been removed.
“At a time when we are seeing an exponential rise in cases, with many linked to schools it is prudent and essential that ministers take action.
“The focus must be on protecting public health and avoiding further damaging disruption to pupils’ education. Introducing and enforcing compliance with the proportionate measures we have set out in our letter will help in the fight to avoid a bad situation becoming worse in the run up to Christmas.
“Pupils, parents and school staff must not be left to have to pay the price of a lack of appropriate Covid safety measures in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.”
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