Studies show education staff had only moderately increased odds of coronavirus infection levels in both the first and second waves

In a televised address on Monday evening, the Prime Minister said: “I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children. Children are very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid.
“The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
The UK findings chime with overseas studies. A Norweigan analysis of infection levels among key workers during both the first and second waves, published in November, concluded: Teachers had no or only a moderately increased odds of Covid-19.
By contrast bartenders, waiters, food service counter attendants, taxi drivers and travel stewards had 1.5 to four times the odds of Covid-19 when compared to everyone in their working age in the second wave.
To this extent, Mr Hancock was right when he told Sky News on Monday, it is “clear that the proportion of teachers who catch coronavirus is no higher than the rest of the population”.
This would appear to undermine calls made by senior teaching union figures to prioritise teachers for a coronavirus vaccine, as Nicola Sturgeon suggested on Monday might happen in Scotland.
And, aside from the fact teachers appear not to be at greater risk indeed, perhaps less than supermarket check-out staff, for example it is not known whether vaccinating teachers would protect their families, as the vaccines may protect a person against the virus while failing to prevent onward transmission.
Meanwhile, teachers who are aged 50 or over who are at high risk should be in line for a jab anyway as part of the phase 1 roll-out.
The question of the extent to which keeping schools open fuels the wider pandemic is more complex, although the evidence does suggest that it plays a role.
The December Sage document states: Overall, accumulating evidence is consistent with increased transmission occurring amongst school children when schools are open, particularly in children of secondary school age.
Multiple data sources show a reduction in transmission in children following schools closing for half term, and transmission rates increasing again following the post-half term return to school.
However, while the statisticians are fairly confident that open schools yields a higher rate of infection among pupils compared to schools being closed, they are struggling to quantify the level of transmission taking place specifically within education settings, rather than, for example, on the journey to or from them.
The Sage sub-group also noted: There is not enough evidence to quantify the size of the effect of school closures, or indicate what the impact is (if any) on the wider community.”