Our teachers and pupils deserve support – not ill-judged opinion

Posted on: 9th September 2020

It is dangerous if MPs who appear to have a low comprehension of risk are permitted to opine on the subject of the safety of our schools returning. Some MPs need tutorials – especially on science and evidence based policy making – before being let loose on the public.

Former MP Andrew George has written to the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Prof Sir Patrick Vallance, to recommend that MPs are offered tutorials in the interpretation of science and risk.

Mr George is concerned that some MPs could put lives at risk if they make statements which appear ill-informed. The latest is a statement by his successor, Mr Derek Thomas, in which he declares that “schools in Cornwall carry a very low risk if any at all“.

Mr George said, “The problem is that MPs like this who (to coin a phase) “carry a very low understanding of risk if any at all” should be discouraged from pontificating on the subject.

“Of course I back efforts to resume school lessons and to provide strong support for teachers and pupils in our schools. But it is the height of irresponsibility to attempt to diminish the risks involved.”

Mr Thomas also states that “during the last week of August two in every 100,000 people across the Duchy tested positive for coronavirus”.

Mr George said, “he should be informed that the 2 in 100,000 statistic is not the rate of infection. The two who would have tested positive were amongst the few who actually managed to get a test. Many others will have followed Government guidance on having symptoms and would have quarantined themselves for 7 days without a test and only sought a test and/or medical attention if the symptoms persisted or worsened. The figure of course doesn’t include the many who are asymptomatic. And contrary to the syntax of his statement of course 100,000 people would not have been tested in Cornwall in the last week of August.”

Mr Thomas attracted national notoriety for his various previous claims like that “(type 1) diabetes is completely avoidable” or that there’s a “fantastic National Park on the Lizard”. Mr George added, “one hopes he would be more circumspect about making declaratory statements, especially on matters which could have grave consequences. Yes of course schools deserve support to continue their important work. But now is not the time to drop our guard, as is implied by this kind irresponsible or poorly understood commentary.

“Lessons can be learned at school. For example a School in Leicestershire where PM Johnson recently visited to promote his campaign that schools going back is a very low risk activity has had to close because of a subsequent Covid outbreak there.”

– ends –

Copy of newspaper column (of 3rd Sept) attached. Statement at end of column.