I cannot fulfil duty to ensure the school is "as safe as reasonably practicable"
[This post has been edited since the original publication to remove references to the particular school and the Principal as the main problem is the government guidance which is being followed].
I have resigned as a parent governor and as a director of the trust of the secondary school because government guidance has made it impossible to fulfil my duty as a governor and under Health and Safety legislation to ensure that the school is safe for students from COVID-19. I will not be complicit in the government's plans that will inevitably lead to a massive scale of infections and a great deal of harm on a national level.
The current guidelines and policies may have been appropriate if the cases were at very low levels but that is not the current situation either locally or nationally with case rates higher in the 10-19 age range than at any point before this summer in Surrey Heath. Given how fortunate we have been in Surrey Heath to have low cases until this point (about 11% of 10-19 children in Surrey Heath have had confirmed cases of COVID at any point) we are actually more vulnerable now as there will be little natural immunity amongst school children.
I want to be clear that the school is fully sticking to the government guidance, going further in some places and the Head has expressed his willingness to go respond effectively in the event of outbreaks which I welcome. I have no reason to believe that any other local schools are in a substantially better position. Most of the information in this document has been conveyed to the Head in slightly different form, there may be some minor data updates or new different links to research that have not been shared if I didn't think that they were significantly persuasive.
I very much hope that I'm wrong as to the level of increase and the likely serious harms and I keep looking for evidence that it is safer than I think and not finding it or where it exists there are clear flaws in the information (e.g. studies on the safety of schools substantially covering periods when they are closed).
The exact timing is triggered by the failure of the government to announce a roll out of the vaccine programme to 12-15 year olds and local case rates continuing to rise for the 10-19 age range.
Below I set out:
- Why I don't believe it is safe for children and teenagers to get Covid.
- The current high rates and therefore risk level especially locally in Surrey Heath.
- The protections that should be in place (mostly government action required and those that could be done locally would mean ignoring government guidelines).
It is not safe for children to get COVID-19
Children are at lower risk than unvaccinated adults but that doesn't mean the risk itself is low and it should be assessed in absolute terms rather than relative to other groups. It is a preventable disease (see New Zealand) and actions can be taken to remove most of that risk. The government messaging seems to be that it doesn't matter if children catch covid and they will only take stronger action if the NHS viability is threatened but there is real harm and risks that they are glossing over, especially with the Delta variant (now absolutely dominant in the UK). In the US many states ICUs for children are full and there are real problems, especially where masks were discouraged.