Sage, iSage and Schools

This thread comes from the Karam Bales, National Executive at the NEU, tweeting in a personal capacity.

SAGE have just released papers on schools.
Not a huge amount(well as much as I wanted)however it doesn’t support the government’s date and guidance documents

Nine models of increasing numbers were included, government hasn’t followed any of these 

Most important measure to prevent a 2nd peak is social distancing in and out of school.

The government guidance does away with the need for social distancing, a key concern for the NEU since 1st June was announced.

The government wasn’t following the science



SAGE stress the importance of rotas on reducing transmission rates.

The government decided to scrap this from the guidance, I would assume because it would mean less time for parents to work

This change wasn’t supported by the science

There were a handful of studies around infection rates in children, it appears this was lower however the analysis says that this could be due to school closures meaning children had less exposure to infection. SAGE summary was that the evidence is inconclusive. 

Infectiousness of children
Of the handful of studies (many other international studies have not been covered) there were some studies that suggested children are less infectious yet once again the evidence was inconclusive. 

A study not cited here looking at Florida and China suggested that the main reason children spread infection is that they are more likely to have more contacts within 2ms, so even if less infectious as some studies suggest the extra contacts means they can increase RO 

What the SAGE scientists do believe is that increasing student numbers will increase RO even if they do turn out to be less likely to be infected and less infectious

It’s not just the epidemiologists but also the behavioural scientists.
Younger primary year groups have more contacts with others due to social distancing issues while 15-+7 year olds are less likely to social distance outside of schools and more likely to use public transport

(15-17 year olds*)
Unsurprisingly the more students in school the larger the predicted impact on RO. One telling point is that they cant be sure that ANY increase in student numbers will not increase RO over 1 and begin exponential growth of infections

Another thing they are clear about is the importance of having an effective contact tracing system. There is no mention of a proposed date, the modelling doesn’t support the governments choice of multiple year groups or guidance Today’s RO figure 0.7-1 shows this is a big gamble 

So in summary, particularly with social distancing fraying in public, RO what it is, and with guidance that doesn’t match the same caution as countries like Denmark, as the NEU have asked for…

It appears the science wasn’t followed, looks more like a plan for reducing furlough

Independent SAGE

Student numbers should not be increased until an effective contact tracing system is in place.

Once established local authorities should have control with direct access to figures around RO to quantify risks. 

Suggested that a system linking GPs, LAs and contact app could create a method where individuals could have a personal daily risk value taking into account their various vulnerabilities and infections in the community, almost like a personalised weather report, improving with data 

Effective contact tracing is very unlikely to be ready by 1st June, requires both people tracers and app to properly work.

Risk should be reducing every 2 weeks, unless social distancing and other measures crumble and reverse the trend in infections. 

Evidence for schools contribution to RO is mixed, but contact tracing will have an impact on keeping RO down

If downwards trends continues June 15th sees half the risks, a few weeks in July would mean risks would be a quarter, this is before taking contact tracing into accout 

As RO and number of infections reduces so would the need for many measures.
If we were to follow a suppression method then by September infection could be low enough that combined with contact tracing that social distancing wouldn’t be needed except when outbreaks occur. 

Outbreaks would also be tackled quickly before many are infected, this means people living with those with vulnerabilities and even those with them would have minimal risks in the community and schools could also consider having usual class sizes. 

This means we could be mainly back to normal but with small pockets of lockdown than social distancing at the local level.

Or we can have a reckless charge and go back to where we were a couple of months ago. 

In summary there’s lots more from both, in particular interesting policy suggestions from iSAGE, however both say opening schools without contact tracing is not sensible, and with current RO&guidence it really does risk a second peak and even more economic and educational damage 

What next?

Government should step away from an arbitrary date, accept NEUs offer for a collaborative meaningful workgroup of unions, central and local government to redraft the plans, and focus for now on those students who would benefit most from additional support 

Despite media attacks and spin, the plans and guidence were drawn up by a government that refused to engage with unions on requests for science and collaborative planning.

Without union pressure would the SAGE docs have been published before 1st June?

Here is Karam’s previous thread.

An executive members inside story of the NEUs attempts to find evidence based answers and to get an evasive government to engage in meaningful consultation.

Reckless planning could turn schools into hubs of transmission …




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.