School ‘bubbles’ to end to prevent further disruption to education
The use of “bubbles” in schools and colleges in England will come to an end as the country moves towards the easing of lockdown restrictions, the Education Secretary has confirmed.
Gavin Williamson told MPs that from August 16 children will only need to self-isolate if they have tested positive for Covid-19.
His comments came after Covid-related pupil absence in schools in England hit a new record high since classes fully returned in March.
Around one in 12 (8.5%) state school pupils did not attend class for Covid-19-related reasons on July 1, up from 5.1% on June 24 and 3.3% on June 17, according to Department for Education (DfE) statistics.
Current rules state children must self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble – which can be an entire year group at secondary school – tests positive for coronavirus.
Mr Williamson added it will now “not be necessary to stagger start and finish times” at schools.
He told the Commons: “We recognise that the system of bubbles and isolation is causing disruption to many children’s education. That is why we’ll be ending bubbles and transferring contact tracing to the NHS Test and Trace system for early years settings, schools and colleges.”
Mr Williamson added: “I do not think it is acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of wider society, especially since they have given up so much to keep older generations safe during this pandemic.”
But the Education Secretary said “some protective measures” – such as enhanced hygiene and ventilation – will remain in place for the autumn term.
He told MPs: “Secondary schools and colleges will be asked to provide two on-site tests to their students at the start of term, with regular home testing continuing until the end of September, when this will be reviewed.”