Petition Close schools as they are a breeding ground for covid.
If you shut non-essential shops, you should shut schools. Teenagers carry covid too and shouldn’t need to weigh going to school and staying healthy.
This response was given on 22 February 2021
Covid related school closure by the Minister for Education must be necessary and proportionate, agreed by the Minister for Health and Social Services and supported by medical advice.
This petition was launched on 6th January 2021 when the start of term, originally planned for 4th January had been delayed a week, by the Minister for Education, until the 11th of January. The start of term was delayed so that a voluntary PCR screening programme for all Government and private nursery, school and college staff and students in Years 11, 12 and 13 could be stood up.
The screening programme will be repeated half termly and, in between times, a weekly testing programme is being put in place (using Lateral Flow Devices). This is available to all school and college staff and students in years 11 to 13.
1,510 students aged 15 to 18 years old were tested between 1 January and 10 January 2021 (this excludes inbound travel, seeking healthcare and contact tracing) with just four students testing positive for Covid-19. During the same period 1,912 staff were also tested with just four positive results recorded.
The Minister does not agree with the petition author’s assertion that “schools are a breeding ground for covid”. This assertion is not supported by evidence and the minutes of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) from 17/12/2020 state “Whilst some students might have tested positive for COVID-19, there was scant evidence of transmission within the school setting.”
The balance of risks and overall harm are considered by STAC and Ministers when making decisions on how to respond to the pandemic situation, at any point in time. Closure of non-essential shops is a totally different scenario to the closure of schools and the risks and overall harms for the two are not the same.
Schools have implemented a wide range of practical measures to reduce the risk of any covid transmission and these were further enhanced in early January. All schools have risk assessments and safety plans which are site specific and these are updated regularly to ensure the continued minimisation of any virus transmission risk.
STAC wrote to the Minister for Education on 30/12/2020 and repeated their previous advice that:
“It remains the view of STAC that the safest place for children, for all the reasons outlined in previous discussions and correspondence, is at school and the longer children are out of school and the more time they are off from school the more detrimental it is to their physical and mental well-being, educational outcome and as a consequence to their life chances.”
The Minister for Education will continue to receive and act upon the medical advice and will only close schools when it is deemed necessary and proportionate and with the agreement of the Minister for Health and Community Services following consultation with the Medical Officer for Health.
At 5,000 signatures...
At 5,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in the States Assembly