The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has produced a set of papers about deaths of those with COVID-19 and their occupational grouping. https://www.ons.gov.uk/releases/covid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwalesdeathsregistereduptoandincluding20thapril2020
Teachers are seen as a group with a high possible exposure to any disease, presumably as they work close to large groups of children. In that respect, secondary school teachers interacting with many different pupils in the course of a day might been thought to have a higher potential risk factor than primary school teachers who are largely interacting with a smaller group of children each day. Of course, this is too simplistic, as it ignores the many other settings in schools from playgrounds, assemblies and meal times where all teachers can interact with large numbers of children. Primary teachers, and especially school leaders may have the added factor of interaction with parents that bring children to school and cluster at the school gate at the end of the day.
This data will no doubt have some bearing on the decisions about –reopening schools. The most useful table in the ONS data is Table 5 helpfully entitled ‘Deaths involving COVID-19 and all causes among minor occupation groups by sex (those aged 20-64 years), England and Wales, deaths registered up to and including 20th April 2020.’
ONS use SOC minor occupation Code 231 for Teaching and Educational Professionals. This Group includes HE, FE primary and secondary teachers and school lead, as well as SEN teachers, advisors and a catch-all group not classified under any of the other categories. Although men have more representation in some of the groups, women almost certainly dominate the group as a whole.
ONS recorded that 22 of the 95 recorded deaths for men in Group 231 were deaths involving COVID-19, as were 25 of the 143 recorded deaths among women in the Group. Of course, there may be other deaths not signified as COVID-19 related, perhaps due to a lack of testing or other underlying causes, especially early in the notification period that might make these underestimates. However, on this data ONS show males in the Group having a death rate of 6.7 per 100,000 (range 4.1 to 10.3) and women 3.3 (range 2.0 to 4.9) for COVID-19 related deaths. For women it may be important since many occupation groups don’t have enough data to provide a figure for COVID-19 related deaths. Group 231 for women has COVID-9 related deaths per 100,000 of the population at about half the rate for all Nursing and Midwifery professionals. For men, the figure of 6.7 compares to 10.5 for Construction and Building Trade Group 531.
Secondary teachers account for half the male COVID-19 total for Group 231, whereas women they account for only a quarter of the total for female COVID-19 deaths in the Group. However, six of the seven COVID-19 related deaths in the primary sector were women, so that across the two sectors the deaths were similar in total at twelve men and twelve women. However, with far more women in classroom teaching than men, this might suggest that as elsewhere, men are most likely to become a casualty of the pandemic.
This is the sort of data that the government and teacher associations will have to discuss when considering how to restart the education system. No doubt they will also use similar data for across the world, where it is available. On the face of it, there is a risk that is less than in some occupational groups, but possibly higher than in others. What level of risk is acceptable will be the key question.