England schools shut early for summer as record number forced to isolate


LONDON: Schools across England are closing early for the summer break or moving to online teaching as pupils are forced to isolate at home amid soaring levels of the Covid infection.
At the same time, there is growing evidence of exasperation among parents, with some taking pupils out of school rather than risk their children contracting the virus or having to isolate in the last few days of term.
“It is a grim situation and a depressing end to an academic year in which schools and colleges have been fighting to keep education running for their students despite waves of disruption caused by the pandemic,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the association of school and college leaders.
“Schools are remaining open until the end of term where possible, but, we are hearing more reports of some having to close because of the Covid-related cases and absence among pupils and staff.” While many independent schools had closed for the summer break some days ago, some state schools finished their term on Friday, and others will continue to offer teaching for another week.
Official government data published last week showed that 840,000 pupils were out of school self-isolating, the highest number since schools re-opened in March.
The figures reflect the continuing surge in infections across the country as well as the policy of sending home entire “bubbles” of children who have been in contact with a positive case, even though they have not tested positive themselves.
These bubbles typically consist of either a single class or an entire year group.
The government said from next week, bubbles would no longer be required, while responsibility for contact tracing would be handed over to the national health service (NHS).
However, self-isolation rules for those who are identified as close contacts of a Covid case, as well as those who are “pinged” by the NHS app, will remain in place for another month for the whole population.
School leaders said they were exasperated by a lack of clear guidance from the education department, which they felt shifts responsibility for determining what was best for the school and the local community on to them. – The Guardian

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