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ONS figures reveal 65 COVID-related deaths in education workforce



At least 65 education sector workers with COVID-19 have died, new statistics show.

Data published today by the Office for National Statistics provides information on deaths involving COVID-19 across England and Wales, broken down by occupation.

It shows at least 65 education staff have died with coronavirus, of which 43 were women and 22 were men, as of April 20.

That includes 17 secondary school teachers, seven primary and nursery teachers, two SEND teachers, ten teaching assistants, six school lunchtime supervisors and school crossing patrols and two school secretaries.

However some of the occupation groups are generic (ie senior professionals of education establishments), so it’s unclear which education sector some of these staff worked in (see full table below).

The figures also include 10 higher education and 10 further education staff who have died with COVID-19.

The statistics solely look at the deceased’s occupation, it provides no further analysis – such as where the disease was caught.

The rate of COVID-19-related deaths among teaching and educational professionals, which for the purposes of the data collection excludes TAs, educational support assistants, lunchtime and crossing patrols, school secretaries and advisers and inspectors, was 6.7 per 100,000 for men and 3.3 for women.

This is roughly the same rate as those classed as business and public service associate professionals (6.8 and 2.8) and corporate managers and directors (6.4 and 2.6), but much lower than those in elementary trades and related occupations (27.8 and 12.5) and those in textiles, printing and other skilled trades (24.6 and 7.0).

The ONS stated its analysis “does not prove conclusively that the observed rates of death involving Covid-19 are necessarily caused by differences in occupational exposure”.

They also said the findings could change as more deaths are registered. And while the findings were adjusted for age, they do not take other factors such as pre-existing health conditions or ethnicity into account.

In a separate analysis also published today, the ONS created an estimate of potential exposure to coronavirus for UK occupations, based on figures from a United States study last year.

It stated that workers in the education sector have “lower exposure to disease than healthcare workers, but primary and nursery education teaching professionals, and special needs education professionals work in close proximity with pupils, and are more likely to be exposed to disease than secondary or higher education teaching professionals”.

The findings come as the government today set out its plans to reopen schools to more pupils from June 1, at the earliest.

New Department for Education guidance released this evening set out how ministers believe schools can reopen safely, including capping class sizes at 15 pupils. However the government admitted that primary pupils will be unable to observe social distancing measures.

The government’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said at the daily coronavirus briefing today that teachers and parents are “understandably concerned about individual risk” of schools reopening, and that will be something “we’re consulting on with the profession”.

He added it was “very important” to have a “proper debate to make sure people understand that we can do many things to reduce the risk”.

Overall, the ONS statistics showed that men in low-skilled jobs were almost four times more likely to die from coronavirus than men in professional occupations.

Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, told the Guardian: “There is much still to disentangle around Covid-19 risk factors and how best to use that information to manage aspects such as population return to work.

“However, right now the forthcoming guidance for safe working simply has to provide extensive detail on how each sector is expected to manage their staff and working environments. Employers and employees need that reassurance.”

 

 

 



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14 Comments

  1. Caroline

    I would like to raise a complaint about this article being misinformation. At a time when workers in education are going to be on edge, you write to suggest all these individuals contracted the virus from the workplace.
    These statistics do not state these poor individuals where working at the time they contracted COVID-19. Although that is what you want your readers to believe. The stats purely state that this was there registered occupation. They could have picked the virus up anywhere.
    This is scaremongering without evidence and not being clear enough in the article to state their is no causal link between occupation and COVID-19. The people could have picked it up from a relative or in the community. The statistics reiterate this, but you don’t.

    • Your complain is rather naive Caroline – of course the teachers that have died might have contracted from multiple places, as might have the nurses that have died: they might have contracted it from the own children / grandchildren. However, every teacher that stands in front of a class knows that you catch whatever the students on the front row have and kids not not know they are passing it on and potentially killing their teachers who have underlying conditions. It has to be thought of in those terms. People do not seem to think of it as being that dangerous.

      • Ben Thomas

        OK, so lets get this into perspective.

        Of the 65 deaths listed above, 7 were primary school teachers and there are roughly 216,000 primary teachers in the UK (https://www.besa.org.uk/key-uk-education-statistics/). This means that covid-19 has taken the lives of roughly 1 in every 30,000 of this group. This compares to about 1 in 2,000 for the UK population as a whole based on ONS statistics released for 24th April. This new virus is a major new threat to us and I think we are all trying to come to terms with what this new disease means and what risks it poses to people. However, we’ve got to be objective too, and the bare fact is that primary school teachers are in relative terms a “low risk group” in our society (15 times less at risk than the population as a whole).

        I have young children in years 3 and 6 and I greatly admire the dedication and the heart and soul they have put into their jobs. They have had a massive impact into my daughter’s lives – I for one would never want these caring individuals forced into a high risk situation. But are we asking this of them?

        Whilst Covid-19 is a nasty and potentially fatal illness the risk to individuals depends enormously on age, health and other lifestyle factors. Children are the lowest risk group of all (far more likely to die from everyday accidents than coronavirus) and the second lowest risk is young women. The third lowest risk group is young men. As the figures above show, deaths from other causes far outweighed covid-19 deaths across all educational professional groups. Despite working closely with children through much of Feb and March, at a time when the virus was spreading fast throughout the UK (and despite having no new safe guards or hygine measures) the risk of covid-19 to teaching staff was about 5 times lower than the risk they faced from everyday other causes during the first 4 months of the year.

        So, I don’t want to belittle anybodies loss (I’m not heartless) I’m just speaking plain facts. We do need to introduce appropriate and workable safe guards to lower the risks even further, of course we absolutely should do!

        Our kids have been going to school during the lockdown due to our families needs and so far our local primary school has been making this work with smaller class sizes, new stations for hand washing and staggered play times / lunchtimes to queuing and crowding.

        For the time being as the government is cautiously lifting lockdown the plan is for reduced class sizes. With so many parent frightened half to death by media scaremongering I doubt more than half of families will bring their kids to school in any case. So the 15 per class plan will probably work naturally. If demand rises then an option is to split the week in two and have half the pupils home learning.

        Of course this will not be sustainable long-term. My kids are really learning very little at home. Home schooling just doesn’t work in reality without the support of their teachers and class mates!

        This virus is now the new reality we are in and effective vaccines could be years away (or never materialise). We therefore have to make decisions based on what is proportionate, workable and long-term sustainable.

        We can not stop educating our children forever. The children are our future!

        • andy oliver

          hi, i am not a modeller ,but i understand that only 2% of pupils are in attendance during the data period and very few teachers , i wonder if someone has the figures to extrapolate out to 15 students and say two teachers per class of 15 what the figures would have been ,

    • Martin Coombes

      The article does contain the line, “The statistics solely look at the deceased’s occupation, it provides no further analysis – such as where the disease was caught.” So while you may be right about the overall tone of the piece, it does make the point you are also making.

    • For balance… paragraph 7
      “The statistics solely look at the deceased’s occupation, it provides no further analysis – such as where the disease was caught.”

    • Sharon Harrow

      It is irrelevant where these teachers contracted Covid 19. It cannot be proven that they did not catch it from within the work place just the same as it cannot be proven that the did. Either way, the article has NOT claimed that teachers has contracted Covid 19 whilst working. We should ALL be working as one to try and get rid of this awful virus and then tackling it later. It has been mismanaged by the government and it is those that should be brought to account.

    • Jem Wallis

      Interesting article that I didn’t see at the time. I’d be more interested to see what the figures are now that we’re all back in work full time rather than the partial opening when these figures came out. It’s clear there is a risk to teachers – just how risky is it?

  2. Phil Bourne

    Hi Caroline-

    I think that we need to be a little more careful than you suggest. I don’t think that the article suggests a causal link. We are in the most challenging time of my generation and we need to obtain statistics to help us make sense of what is/ isn’t true.

    We have a lot of work to do to ensure that the facts are shared – we have experienced a period of lockdown and these statistics have emerged based on the occupations of those involved over the time since this has all started. I regret to say this but believe that these figures will only increase.

    We can only guess what happens next, but must continue to obtain statistics and reporting to really understand what happens at each point in time. I think we are all certain that we all know that despite the discomfort of loss from the figures shared- we must not forget their contribution nor disguise that what they and others have done for the profession.

    Schoolsweek- please keep sharing statistics so that we ensure that the importance of the profession is not lost amongst much noise. We know that selectively the mainstream media do take on board the work that is done to improve how our system works: thank you!!!

    I personally would like to express my deepest sympathy for families, colleagues and friends who have lost people that are included in these numbers. I understand this loss too. Their contribution will not be forgotten.

    I hope that we can soon go back to a normal that involves improving the profession and the life chances of the pupils, families and communities that we all serve.

  3. Tracey Fisher

    The education system also employs a huge amount of cleaners and caretakers that come into contact with the kids and high transmission areas everyday. Who do you think cleans the toilets and wipes the spit off the windows? Why are these people always forgotten!

  4. Maggie conway

    Maybe the fact that schools are closed affects the numbers of deaths in the profession?
    Am very concerned that school support staff like cleaners and dinner ladies will be at r isk.
    It takes much more than teachers to run an effective school
    .

    • Ceri Brown

      Many schools have remained open throughout the pandemic so that us teachers can look after the children of key workers. Every member of staff in my school has attended on rota system.

  5. John Henderson

    I understand that this article from the ONS is probably now outdated. However, it really needs to be pointed out and realized and accepted that the statistics given are for those who died “WITH” coronavirus and not necessarily FROM coronavirus there may very well have been an underlying cause which they ACTUALLY died FROM! As it is educators that are being addressed here I think it is important that the language used to reflect reality and not conjecture