Self-isolation for school pupils in England could be scrapped

Ministers are looking at asking schools to introduce daily Covid-19 testing

CHERTSEY, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 09: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Pupils gather in the playground for a break on their first day back from lockdown at Chertsey High School on March 09, 2021 in Chertsey, United Kingdom. Chertsey High school, which is part of the Bourne Education Trust, is continuing to conduct lateral flow testing within the school every 3 to five days until all children who have consented have completed three tests, before being asked to complete the tests at home. England's schools re-opened to pupils from March 8th, 2021 after closing for a third lockdown on January 5th, 2021.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Pupils in England who have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 may not have to self-isolate amid growing concern over the number of children missing school.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the British government was considering introducing daily testing as an alternative to the 10 days of isolation pupils must undertake if someone in their social bubble tests positive.

Parents have become increasingly frustrated at the rule, as it's disrupting their children’s education.

About 250,000 children are off school in England, even though only 9,000 tested positive for the virus.

England’s children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said the “incredibly frustrating” situation needs to end soon.

"With bubbles, I think everybody would like it if we could get back to normal as soon as possible," she told The Telegraph.

“All these children going in and out of self-isolation – that is a really big issue and it’s incredibly frustrating for children and teachers.”

Mr Gibb said ministers would make a decision on scrapping self-isolation before the final stage of unlocking on July 19.

He said the government had asked schools to prepare to conduct Covid-19 tests onsite.

“We are conducting trails of daily contact testing as a possible alternative to self-isolation,” he told Sky News.

“What matters also is we keep the schools safe. If you go around schools, you will see a raft of measures to reduce the infection rate in schools – there’s extra hygiene, there’s staggered breaks, we keep children in bubbles and there’s extra ventilation in classrooms.

“We want children to be in school.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons on Monday that self-isolation of children was "something that none of us want to see" because of "the impact that it's having in terms of their education, mental health and in so many other detrimental ways".

“And that is exactly why I’ve asked for fresh advice on this,” he said. “I want to see if there’s anything more that we can do, any more flexibilities.”

Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis chain of schools, said scrapping self-isolation for pupils was long overdue.

"We have 10 per cent of our pupils out of school," he told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme.

“It’s a pretty alarming situation and we would say something needs to be done about this now. The impact of this on many children is absolutely huge in terms of their development, their social and mental health.”