28 June 2021, 05:18
The Government is facing growing calls to change guidance for coronavirus in schools.
Concerns have been raised over the current rules, which may require large groups of children to be sent home to self-isolate if one student tests positive.
The latest figures from the Department of Education showed that 2.3 per cent of all state school students were self-isolating because of possible exposure to Covid-19 in school, as of 17 June.
This is up from 0.5 per cent on 10 June.
It translates to about 172,000 students self-isolating because of potential contact with a positive case – of which, in schools, there were around 9,000.
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With all adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the age of 18 now eligible to book their coronavirus jabs, there are worries that surges in infections amongst unvaccinated students will lead to more pupils having to self-isolate, resulting in even more missed education.
Among those calling for a change to the Government’s Covid-19 guidance is Tim Spector, principle investigator for the Zoe Covid Study app.
He tweeted: “Now that COVID is endemic and most susceptible people are protected – it makes no sense to keep sending masses of kids home and mess up their education when one case occurs and their risk is tiny.”
Currently, the Government advice says that schools must “minimise contact with individuals who are required to self-isolate by ensuring they do not attend school”.
If a pupil has symptoms, tests positive, or comes into close contact with a positive case, they must isolate at home for 10 days like the rest of the population.
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Whilst cases in secondary schools are slightly more manageable, in primary schools where social distancing between students is much more difficult a single positive case can result in entire “bubbles” – or even year groups – being sent home.
This has knock on effects for parents, many of whom may need to either arrange childcare at short notice or take time off work.
There are also worries that, after an already-tumultuous 18 months, being sent home will cause yet more disruption to students’ education.