The government said educational settings will stay open, while pubs, restaurants and gyms close throughout November in a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
The National Education Union (NEU) has called for schools and colleges to close for most students as part of the new month-long lockdown for England, while remaining open only for children of key workers and vulnerable children.
This campaign has been supported by more than 150,000 teachers and support staff since it was launched two days ago, the union said on Monday.
The NEU has also called for rota systems – where students spend some time in school followed by time at home – to be introduced when lockdown ends.
Both the government and Labour have insisted schools should stay open, even if it means to lockdown has to go on for longer, while some unions backed the decision to prioritise keeping educational settings open.
However, Kevin Courtney from the NEU said the response to their call to shut schools and colleges showed the union’s concern was “widely shared”.
“We have seen a fifty-fold increase in infections in secondary schools alone since September,” the union’s joint general secretary said. “Schools, clearly, are an engine for virus transmission.”
The union leader added: “The lockdown would be much more effective in reducing virus levels if schools and colleges were a part of it.”
Education unions have also called for more government support to help schools staying open through the lockdown.
Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) told The Independent that keeping schools open was the “right priority”, but they “desperately and urgently” needed more help.
He called for the government to “reimburse the substantial costs” schools and colleges face over Covid-19 safety measures.
A Department for Education spokesperson told The Independent: “We are prioritising children’s and young people’s education and wellbeing, by keeping nurseries, schools, colleges and universities open.”
They added: “The chief and deputy chief medical officers have highlighted the risks of not being in education on their development and mental health.”
Between 6 and 7 per cent of state school pupils – around 557,000 – were estimated to be out of school due to coronavirus-related reasons on 22 October, when the latest available government data is available for.
Around 0.1 per cent, or 10,000 pupils, were off because of a positive test, the Department for Education (DfE) data showed.