The good news is that coronavirus infection rates are still going down in England, but it remains the case that the government are still not doing anywhere near enough to help poorer communities like Leicester where infection rates remain high. Leicester currently has the fourth highest infection rate in the country with 68.6 cases per 100,000 population compared to the national average across England of 23.8 cases (as of April 17).
It is of course true that the number of people being admitted to hospital remains fairly low – largely owing to the high vaccine update and the widespread wearing of masks (including in schools) – but the people and key workers of Leicester are still being exposed to a higher risk of covid-related death than other wealthier parts of the country. Note that only three areas in the UK have a higher rate of infection than Leicester, these being:
- Derry City and Strabane – 108.4 cases per 100,000 population
- Luton – 73.7 cases per 100,000 population
- Doncaster – 73.4 cases per 100,000 population
As of April 17, the single area in Leicester suffering the most from Covid-19 infections is St Matthews & Highfields North which has 172.0 cases per 100,000 population. Although the area in the locality with the highest infection rate is Anstey with 190.1 cases per 100,000 population (an area located on the outskirts of the city).
The most recent Infection Survey (April 17) produced by the Office for National Statistics determined that:
“In England, the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased in the week ending 10 April 2021; we estimate that 112,600 people within the community population in England had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 96,700 to 130,100), equating to around 1 in 480 people.”
Also worth noting, the report explained that:
“In the week ending 10 April 2021, the percentages of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) in England have decreased in most age groups, except school Years 7 to 11 and in those aged 50 to 69 years where the trend is uncertain.”
The troubling nature of infection rates in children attending secondary school is needless to say related to the fact that children continue to act as an important vector for the spread of the virus. Thus it is concerning that the government have yet to provide any financial resources to schools to help them take further precautionary measures to minimise ongoing transmission. Indeed, this lack of action on the part of the government will prove to be even more significant if Covid-19 mutates into a deadlier variant for which current vaccination regimes prove ineffective.
What is more, the government are now trying to take workers back to the old normal, which includes education workers being served up with an effective pay cut. As the National Education Union recently observed:
“In his remit letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), Gavin Williamson acknowledged that schoolteachers and leaders had made a huge contribution to the nation’s efforts in responding to the unprecedented challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. He praised their ‘extraordinary dedication’. He then went on to argue that their pay should be cut.”
In fact, the overpaid management of too many schools are now copying other bullying employers by using the pandemic as an opportunity to launch vicious attacks on their staff. Locally we can see this playing out at the prestigious Loughborough Schools Foundation, as earlier this month the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) spoke out on social media explaining how teachers had voted…:
“… overwhelmingly against changes to their pensions, in a vote of no confidence at Loughborough Schools Foundation
“Teachers at Loughborough Schools Foundation have voted that they have no confidence in their governing body, due to proposals to ‘fire and rehire’ them on inferior contracts. 200 of the schools’ around 270 strong teaching body took part in the vote, in which 93% of respondents voted that they had no confidence in governors.
“The vote follows a consultation on withdrawing from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme in favour of a less generous scheme, which unions say could lead to some teachers retiring without adequate funds to live on.” (April 12, 2021)
These attacks on workers are of course linked to similar trends occurring within the university sector, and one of the best known members of Loughborough Schools Foundation’s board of governors is Professor Robert Allison, who since has been Vice-Chancellor and President of Loughborough University – a university that is currently making many of their staff redundant at this very moment. Here at Allison’s own University union members will need to remain vigilant against bullying. I say this because at this very moment the University of Leicester’s management seem to be ignoring all due process in their ongoing redundancy process which has led union members to successfully ballot their members for strike action. For an update on their dispute watch the latest YouTube update that has been produced by the Leicester leadership of the University of College Union.