Review under way into ending Covid self-isolation rules for children with testing programme

The Government has said it is carrying out a review into using testing to end self-isolation for school pupils in bubbles from this autumn.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 8:40 am

The confirmation from the Department for Education comes amid growing concerns about the rising number of children who have to quarantine because they are the contacts of confirmed cases.

The department said ministers have written to secondary schools asking them to prepare to potentially replace isolation rules with testing.

Currently children have to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble tests positive for coronavirus.

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A review is underway into self-isolation rules for schoolchildren, looking at how testing can be used instead to help keep pupils in schools.

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A spokesman said: “We are provisionally asking secondary schools and colleges to prepare to offer on-site testing when students return for the new academic year, so that schools are ready in case it is needed to keep as many children as possible in face-to-face education.

“We will provide further details about the approach to protective measures and test and trace in education from September in due course.”

Yesterday, Monday, June 28, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he has asked for “fresh advice” on the issue, adding that the policy is “having a huge knock-on impact” on children’s education.

Schools minister Nick Gibb also said the Government was conducting a review into using daily testing to end self-isolation for school pupils in bubbles, with a decision to be taken before Monday, July 19.

“What matters also is that we keep the school safe and if you go around our schools, you will see a raft of measures to reduce the infection rates within schools,” he said.

“There’s extra hygiene, there’s staggered breaks, we keep children in bubbles, and there’s extra ventilation in classrooms to minimise the risk of transmission.”

He said that about 3% of students are currently self-isolating, lower than it was in the autumn.

It came as the new Children’s Commissioner for England backed the end of bubble arrangements and self-isolation for pupils.

Dame Rachel de Souza said there is an urgent need for children to get back to normal as lockdown restrictions have been a “real trauma” them, with many struggling with their mental health.

It has resulted in a sharp rise in pupils off school for Covid-related reasons, with the latest official figures showing 239,000 children in England missing classes – as the numbers trebled in the space of a week.

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