Teachers react to news test and trace to replace self isolation for school bubbles

Contact tracing by NHS Test and Trace will replace the requirement for entire school bubbles to isolate after a positive Covid contact, the education secretary has announced.

Following the announcement that the government plans to scrap legal Covid restrictions from July 19, Gavin Williamson set out his strategy for easing measures in educational settings.

The announcement was made on Tuesday, amid record numbers of pupil absences.

Since returning to the classroom many pupils have found their learning disrupted because they have had to isolate.

The government says it is unacceptable that children should face greater restrictions than wider society, so when rules are relaxed on the 19th July, changes announced today will come into affect in educational settings, even though it falls on the week schools close for summer. 

The new rules mean that face masks will no longer be compulsory, bubbles will be scrapped and where pupils have come into contact with a positive covid case they will no longer have to isolate. Instead they will be advised to take a PCR test.

The news has been welcomed by the Education Alliance Multi Academy Trust, who runs six schools across East Yorkshire.

Jonny Uttley from the EAMAT said: "A number of schools have significant cases in the community and that's lead to students coming to contact, so we have had to ask students to stay at home. So at the end of last week, out of 6000 students we had 800 at home because they had be contacts of covid cases."

David Nichols from Snaith School believes many pupils have been 'disadvantaged by the pandemic' and that there is 'no replacement' for classroom learning amongst peers. He said today's announcement was 'another step along the road to some sort of normality.'

But teaching unions are concerned by the impact lifting restrictions might have. 

Sally Kincaid, National Executive of NEU for Yorkshire and Humberside said: "Where's the science behind this? Why can't they explain why more pupils and children are testing positive? What's happening with long covid, there's so many unknowns in this situation it just feels we are rushing headline into what could be a disaster over the summer or into the winter months."

Lockdown rules in England: What's changing from July 19

What has happened to social distancing and the rule of six?

The 'one metre plus' rule has been scrapped entirely, as of July 19 in England. However, some guidance to maintain social distancing in certain situations will remain in place of the legal restrictions.

Social distancing guidance will continue if someone is Covid positive and self-isolating, or in airports, or other ports of entry, to avoid travellers arriving from amber or red-list countries mixing with those from green list areas.

Limits on social contact in England have disappeared, meaning the end of the rule of six indoors and the limit of 30 people for outdoor gatherings.

Do I still need to wear a face mask?

There is now no legal requirements to wear face coverings - but guidance still encourages using masks in some settings, including hospitals, healthcare settings and in crowded enclosed public spaces.

Has the working from home guidance changed?

The guidance on working from home has gone. It's ultimately down to employers to decide whether to keep staff at home or in the office, but the government say employers are able to plan the return of staff to the workplace.

What about weddings and funerals?

The current limits on numbers of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events has ended.

What's happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The changes to Covid rules announced by Boris Johnson, only impact England and will not change regulations in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.

The Welsh Government “would like to move together” with other parts of the UK in lifting coronavirus restrictions but will only do so if it is “right for Wales”, health minister Eluned Morgan said on Monday 5 July.

As of July 19, restrictions in Scotland have eased, with all areas of the country moving to level 0. The government is aiming to lift all major restrictions in Scotland by August 9.

In Northern Ireland, some significant restrictions have already been eased including allowing the resumption of live music and the lifting of caps on organised outdoor gatherings.

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Year ten pupils Thomas Calpin and Erin Thomas, who are due to sit their GCSE exams next year, say that they trust the government to do the right thing regarding their health, but worry about the impact all the disruption has had on their academic performance, with some pupils missing more face to face teaching than others. 

Erin Thomas said: "If all this happens and Coronavirus gets worse again, then education has already been disrupted so much with Coronavirus, it's hard to see what's going to happen, we have no clarity about what is going to happen with out GCSE's and it's a bit worrying."

Thomas Calpin said: "We cannot re learn what we have missed, we can only go forward from what we know, so reducing the content on the exams for our year would be a huge plus."

With some pupils missing more face to face teaching than others, students across the region will now look to the government for reassurance ahead of the next academic year.