To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to improve the quality of information available on the rates of infection and transmission of covid-19 in educational settings.
The Department regularly reviews advice from Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), Public Health England, the Office for National Statistics and other sources to ensure our policies are guided by the most up to date scientific evidence. SAGE have committed to publishing minutes and papers following meetings on a regular basis and we will continue to work closely with them, keeping the guidance under review as we continue to monitor the situation over the winter. The Department will adjust and adapt our approach as necessary if more evidence becomes available.
The Department collects daily data on the open status of schools, the number of schools that have indicated they have sent children home due to COVID-19 containment, the number of pupils absent because they have suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, and the number of pupils asked to isolate due to contact with a potential case.
The data from this collection is published at a national level as part of the official statistics series. The publication can be found here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-in-education-and-early-years-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak.
Public Health England also collects data on infection, incidence, and COVID-19 cases overall and publishes weekly data on COVID-19 incidents by institution, including educational settings. This can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936672/Weekly_COVID-19_and_Influenza_Surveillance_Graphs_w47.pdf. It shows COVID-19 clusters or outbreaks by educational setting, including colleges and universities. Age-range data is also available from the Office for National Statistics here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/20november2020. This shows age-range positive test rates, including for academic school Year 12 to age 24.
The department intends to publish school workforce attendance data from the new year. This data will be included as part of the publication ‘Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (Covid 19) outbreak’.
The Department is continuing to review what we publish in our weekly dataset, alongside the quality of data we collect.