Teaching union the NASUWT has written to Children’s and Education Minister Scott Wickenden calling for a pause on whole school assemblies, face coverings in all school areas, the reintroduction of PCR testing for close contacts and the cancellation of any non-essential activities.
The union has warned that children’s education will continue to be disrupted, and the safety of pupils and staff will be at risk, unless measures to reduce the spread are put in place.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, 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.’
In the letter to Deputy Wickenden, the union said the recent surge in cases – which on Friday hit 1,304 known active cases – appeared to be ‘fuelled largely by cases in schools’.
On Wednesday, there were 44 confirmed cases in schools while attendance rates on Thursday were 90.7% for primary schools and 83.5% for secondary schools.
The letter, signed by Dr Roach, said: ‘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.
‘Many other countries in Europe that have kept in place mitigation measures in schools, whilst rolling out a vaccination programme, have not experienced the surge in cases that we have seen in Jersey.’