Occupational exposure in education settings
The percentage of COVID-19 cases aged 18 or older in Scotland who reported working in education or childcare was between 2.4% and 6.5% in the period from September 2020 and July 2021. However, it is important to note that this figure does not account for the setting in which transmission occurred nor whether the infection was during a holiday period.
In line with the evidence that children transmit the virus at a lower rate than adults, the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 transmission appears to be higher from teachers than students in educational settings. During the summer half-term in schools in England in 2020, there were 177 COVID-19 related events in educational settings; 113 were single cases, nine were co-primary cases and there were 55 outbreaks. The probable direction of transmission was staff-to-staff in 26 outbreaks, student-to-staff in 16 outbreaks and student-to-student in five.
In general, studies have not revealed a higher occupational risk to educational staff compared to the general population . Analysis of mortality statistics based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for England and Wales, found that the absolute mortality risk was lower among those working in schools compared to many other occupations. Secondary school teachers had an estimated higher risk of death than the general working-age population but the analysis did not take potential confounders such as existing comorbidities into account.
In a separate report, COVID-19 related deaths among teaching and education professionals were reported by the ONS to be statistically significantly lower than the rate of death among those of the same age and sex in the general population. Rates of COVID-19 related deaths among secondary education teaching professionals were not statistically significantly different from those of the same age and sex in the wider population. However, the rate of COVID-19 related deaths among male secondary school teachers was statistically significantly higher than the rate of COVID-19 related deaths in men of the same age in professional occupations.
However, in Scotland, after the schools re-opened in August 2020, the risk of hospitalisation among teachers and their household members was found to be broadly like the general working age population, and the relative risk of severe COVID-19 was lower.
These studies were carried out, in the main, before the more transmissible Alpha and Delta variants of SARS-CoV-2 became dominant and before the vaccination programme had been widely rolled out in the UK.
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