Cutting class sizes in half could slash the effect on R-rate, SAGE documents find


CUTTING class sizes could slash the effect on the R number, SAGE documents revealed today.

A graph by the Government’s top scientists shows exactly how different ways of getting kids back in classrooms will increase the rate of transmission of the virus.

Government scientists said last week they estimate the rate of transmission of the virus is somewhere between 0.7 and 1 – if the number goes above 1 the UK risks becoming overwhelmed by a deadly second peak of the virus.

But if kids returned to classrooms with only half the normal number of students, alternating week by week between home learning and at school, the R number will only move up by 0.1.

Another similar option was to bring back kids half time with full classes, alternating in and out of classrooms every fortnight.

That pattern would send the R number ratcheting up 0.3.

That’s compared to the number skyrocketing back to 1 if schools fully reopen.

The document did warn that modelling on option 7 was the “least robust”.

Notes from a behavioural insight meeting in May said: “Although not initially one of the options proposed by DfE, options 7b (classes split in two, with children attending on alternate weeks) emerged from the joint discussions as having particular potential merit for further consideration.”

The documents also noted that it would be difficult to enforce other measures, such as hand hygiene, face touching and physical distancing the younger the children were.

Boris Johnson has said children in reception, year one and year six should be ready to get back to school by June 1 – to ensure kids in these crucial year groups get atleast a month of learning before the summer break.

Guidance from the Department of Education has told schools they should cut class sizes to 15 pupils.

But plans to do so have been hampered by militant unions demanding teachers don’t engage with plans to reopen schools.

The documents from SAGE revealed today that the chances of kids catching the deadly virus was “much lower” than adults. 

The Government’s top experts also warned that lockdown has caused “shock” to kids and will affect work opportunities for the rest of their lives.

The Joint Secretary of the National Education Union Dr Mary Bousted claimed the findings showed the planned return was “too soon”.

She said: “We think it’s just descending into chaos now and it’s not funny.

“The evidence is still not there, we now have the Independent Sage Committee saying give it two weeks then we’ll have half as much chance of catching the virus.

“This is just really confusing for parents, it’s very difficult for school leavers having to make decisions on inadequate scientific evidence.”