Teachers are not more likely to die from coronavirus than the general population, official figures reveal, amid mounting calls to bump them up the vaccine list and get children back at their desks before the Easter holidays.
A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published today found 139 teachers in primary schools, secondary schools and universities in England and Wales died last year after catching the virus.
Protecting teachers earlier than other vulnerable Brits has been a subject of hot debate in recent weeks with ministers desperate to reopen schools, but the data show their death risk is no higher than average.
This may in part be because they have spent large parts of the pandemic working from home or on school holidays – schools were only fully open between September and December. Most schools, however, have still been giving in-person lessons to vulnerable children and the children of key workers throughout the pandemic.
Statisticians said school staff’s rate of death was below the national average of 31 and 16 fatalities per 100,000 people in men and women respectively, as they had a rate at 18 and 10.
The report also revealed almost twice the number of working-age men had died from the virus than women by December 28, revealing a stark disparity between the two sexes.
But fewer than 8,000 deaths have been registered among those under 65 overall, one twelfth of the total number.
Boris Johnson today promised children would be able to return to the classroom ‘as soon as possible’ but failed to commit to a date – amid fears schools will have to remain closed until April.
Senior Conservatives are up in arms about the long-term damage to the prospects of the youngest in society – demanding an immediate route map for how classrooms can get back up and running.
But Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has rejected a request to summon Education Secretary Gavin Williamson for a grilling this afternoon, despite expectations that he will announce that schools cannot return after the February half-term in the coming days, and possibly not for many months.
There have been mounting calls for teachers to be bumped up the vaccinations list to help allow schools to open their gates sooner, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying they had a ‘good case’ for being next in line.
ONE IN SEVEN WORKING-AGE WOMEN WHO DIED FROM COVID-19 WORKED IN CARE
One in seven of all working-age women who died from coronavirus last year were care workers, official figures reveal, and men under 65 faced almost double the risk of death.
A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows of the 2,833 women aged between 20 and 64 who died after catching the disease in England and Wales, 400 worked in care services.
This is the highest number of women in a profession to have died from the virus.
It is followed by those working as postmen, cleaners and security staff, where 193 fatalities have been registered, and those in administrative tasks – such as receptionists – where 186 deaths have been recorded.
For men in the same age group 5,128 had succumbed to the virus by December 28, almost double the number of women over the same time period.
Fewer than 8,000 deaths were registered in people under 65 overall, one twelfth of the fatalities in older groups.
The ONS report also looked at deaths in secondary school teachers, because this was the only category where enough had occurred to allow them to calculate a death rate.
It found no statistical difference between the likelihood of dying from the virus for those working in these settings compared to the general population, further suggesting pupils should be allowed to return to the classroom.
There were 52 deaths in secondary school teachers last year, they said. This gave a death rate of 39.2 per 100,000 in males, and 21.2 per 100,000 in females.
The report also revealed that 5,128 working-age men had died from the virus by December 28, almost double the 2,833 deaths registered in women of the same age over the same period of time.
Postmen, cleaners and security staff had the highest number of deaths from the virus last year, the ONS said, with 692 deaths in this category.
They were followed by lorry and bus drivers and others working in transport, where 608 fatalities were recorded.
There were 594 deaths in care workers, and 364 in administrative occupations.
Ben Humberstone, the head of analysis and life events at the ONS, said: ‘Today’s analysis shows that jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher Covid-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population.
‘Men continue to have higher rates of death than women, making up nearly two thirds of these deaths.
‘As the pandemic has progressed, we have learnt more about the disease and the communities it impacts most.
‘There are a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death; from your age and your ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions. Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving COVID-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure.’
It is feared schools will remain closed after the half-term break, meaning millions needing to rely on remote learning and parents having to juggle home schooling with work, with experts warning it will hit mental health and widen the learning gap for the poorest.
The Government is under mounting pressure to set a date for when children can get back behind their desks, as schools across the country stand empty. Pictured: an empty classroom at Westlands Primary School, Staffordshire
Education committee chair Robert Halfon has joined calls for a ‘routemap’ to classrooms reopening fully, which are backed by the former chief whip Mark Harper, chair of the Tory lockdown-sceptic CRG group.
Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Halfon said he was ‘hugely worried’ about the ‘impact on mental health, on educational attainment, on safeguarding’ as schools are shut.
‘I’m not a lockdown sceptic – I voted for all of the Government measures – but I am a permanent school-down sceptic,’ he said.
‘We’re creating a “have and have not” society with some children doing remote learning and disadvantaged children doing much less.’
He added: ‘I think that everything the Government is doing is directed towards the economy and health which is perhaps understandable, but I think education is perhaps the most important thing we can do as a society because it is about our coming generation.’
Experts have warned Britain risks having a ‘lost generation’ of children because of the disruption to teaching and the exams schedule, and called for the youngest – who are least affected by the virus – to be allowed to return to the classroom.
Hopes of enabling this were raised yesterday when Mr Hancock suggested teachers could be bumped up the queue for vaccinations, which could allow schools to open soon.
He said teachers had a ‘good shot’ at being higher priority on the vaccination list, as hundreds of top schools offered to allow their premises to be used for vaccinating all teachers over February half-term.
Saturday alone saw 491,970 people get their first dose and 1,043 get their second, the highest daily figures recorded so far
The Health Secretary said that while those at highest risk of death needed to be protected first, there was a ‘perfectly reasonable debate’ about who should be next.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he said: ‘Supply [of vaccine] is the rate-limiting factor. The question is who should have each dose as it comes in… and we’ve taken the decision, quite rightly, to go through in order of clinical need, starting with those who are most likely to die from this disease.
‘We’re going through those who are clinically vulnerable… and after that there’s a perfectly reasonable debate to be had about who should go in what order next… Teachers have got a good shout to be very high on the list and those discussions are going on.’
Currently, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation lists teachers alongside those in the military, justice and transport systems as being in the second phase for jabs.
Almost half a million Britons have been vaccinated in a single day, official figures reveal, as the rollout continues to gather steam.
Department of Health data shows a record 493,013 jabs were administered on Saturday, marking the fifth day in a row that the operation has picked up the pace.
And three quarters of Britain’s over-80s have now received their first dose, according to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, in another promising sign that the country could be on course to hit its ambitious target.
This may give the Government leg-room to turbo-charge the rollout of the vaccine to other professions.