Matt Hancock grilled over supply teacher coronavirus risk

Matt Hancock insists it will be up to schools to make sure UK’s tens of thousands of supply teachers do not act as coronavirus super spreaders when they switch between jobs as he says they MUST be kept socially distanced from pupils

  • Schools in England are scheduled to reopen next week, already open in Scotland
  • Concerns supply teachers could spread coronavirus when they switch jobs
  • Matt Hancock said it will be up to schools to ensure social distancing is stuck to 

Matt Hancock today insisted it will be up to schools to make sure supply teachers do not unwittingly spread coronavirus if they teach lessons at different locations. 

Concerns have been raised about the prospect of supply teachers working in more than one school and the risk of them carrying the virus from one institution to another. 

The situation has drawn comparisons to what happened in care homes at the start of the pandemic when agency workers did shifts at multiple facilities. 

The Health Secretary said this morning that a strict adherence to social distancing would minimise the risk of the disease spreading. 

Matt Hancock today said social distancing will be key when he was asked how the Government intends to protect against supply teachers spreading coronavirus 

Schools across England are due to return next week. Pictured is a school in Hyde in July

Tens of thousands of supply teachers work across the UK and Mr Hancock was asked this morning what protections the Government is putting in place to guard against the risk potentially posed by staff moving between schools. 

He told Sky News: ‘The answer is that the school, in each school, needs to have in place a system of social distancing.’

Pushed again on whether there would be any additional protection measures rolled out, he said social distancing between pupils and teachers ‘is the goal here’. 

‘The principle is that we want to keep teachers socially distanced from pupils because there is all sorts of circumstances where a teacher might need to teach classes that are in different bubbles within the school,’ he said. 

‘The pupils are put within bubbles and the bubbles shouldn’t meet and the goal is to keep the teachers socially distanced.

‘This is just one example of how challenging it is for all sorts of parts of society to minimise the impact of Covid.

‘My answer to you is that it is the social distancing between the teacher and the pupils that is the goal here but our total focus is on getting the schools back from next week.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock also insisted that the Government’s top scientific experts were involved in the decision to U-turn on the issue of secondary school pupils in England being required to wear face masks. 

He said that chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty were both consulted on the issue.

The UK Government had initially said that face masks would not need to be worn by pupils and staff. 

But a U-turn was announced yesterday which will mean pupils and staff who attend schools in coronavirus ‘hotspot’ areas will have to wear coverings in communal areas.

Head teachers of schools in non-local lockdown areas will also have the discretion to ask for masks to be worn. 

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