Do I need to self-isolate if my child is sent home from school without Covid symptoms?

Video report by Andy Bonner

It seems at the moment that everyone knows of children who have been sent home from school to self-isolate.

From small numbers of close contacts to entire year groups, schools across the region are sending pupils home to stop the spread of the virus.

And parents are once again juggling remote working and homeschooling.

The Mumsnet website has told me that it is seeing more confused parents asking about exactly what they should be doing if their child is told to isolate.

One public health official admitted the situation is complicated.

Meanwhile, head teachers are calling for more clarity over plans for the future - labelling the current situation unsustainable.

Why is this happening?

Put simply, infection rates are rising again mainly because of the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The North West has the highest rates in England with 238.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to June 20, up week-on-week from 200.3.

This is the highest rate for the region since the end of January.

Health bosses say while vaccines are protecting people, even two jabs won't stop Covid altogether.

The virus is taking off in largely unvaccinated age groups and youngsters have also been mixing more.

The number of children out of class has nearly trebled in a week. Pupil absence at its highest since schools fully reopened in March.

The National Association of Headteachers says in areas including Oldham, some children are on their seventh period of isolation.

Why are some teachers unhappy?

There appears to be growing unease in the education community about the current situation.

At Hartford Manor Primary School & Nursery in Cheshire they have had a relatively disruption-free time during the pandemic.

However, since half term they have had to send three bubble home. That's 89 of out of 426 children. Six members of staff are also off.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has called on the Government to think urgently about how to reduce disruption after the summer break.

A boy uses a laptop with his father for homeschooling Credit: Nicolas Armer/DPA/PA Images

The Government is looking at a scheme to trial daily Covid testing to replace the need for self-isolation.

It is reported that around 200 schools, including Rudheath Senior Academy in Northwich and Westhoughton High School in Greater Manchester, are taking part in the pilot where asymptomatic students classed as a close contact of positive case can remain in school if they continue to test negative.

There is as yet no sign of a roll-out but a Government spokesperson told the Manchester Evening News, "The effectiveness... will be evaluated on an ongoing basis by an independent safety and efficacy monitoring committee."

What about parents?

Jacquie Hudson helps her Year 6 son Ethan with his school work

For now, the 10-day isolation period is having a knock-on effect on parents who are starting to feel the strain of homeschooling again.

While some are still able to work remotely, it still means having to juggle extra responsibilities.

Jacquie Hudson from Northwich is having to handle working at home while homeschooling her daughter Emma.

She is one of the Year 10 students to have been sent home from her secondary school this week.

It came just a day after her son Ethan finished self-isolating when his primary school class was closed.

Both have tested negative but it is disheartening for Jacquie, who is self employed and still needs to fulfil her work commitments.

"It has been very stressful."

Confusion is seemingly adding to the frustration.

Mumsnet says some parents don't know what to do if their child tests negative but has been in contact with someone who has the virus.

Anna Cook said, "We've seen a lot of threads started where parents aren't sure or are being given different advice from the schools than there is on the Public Health England website. And we're seeing parents think it might be the whole household that has to isolate. So there just seems to be a real sense of mixed messages.

So what are the rules?

In Liverpool, more than 5,000 students and 300 school staff have been isolating.

Even the city's Director of Public Health admits everyone needs to "dust off the manual" to make sure they are doing the right thing.

But he says he understands the confusion.

"It's a flowchart, isn't it? If you are a contact, you self isolate. You get tested [a rapid/lateral flow test].

"If you're positive, you go and have another test [a PCR Test]. And if you're positive, that means your family have to self isolate. But if you're negative they don't.

"That is complicated. And I think because you don't have anybody necessarily holding your hand through this, it is hard for parents."

The full guidance can be found on the UK Government website.

What does the Government say?

A Government spokesperson said, "Schools across the country continue to have robust protective measures in place, including regular twice weekly testing to break chains of transmission and keeping pupils in smaller group bubbles.

"We are also taking additional measures in areas where there is a high prevalence of the virus, including increasing the availability of testing for staff, pupils and families and working with directors of public health on further measures to reduce local transmission. Absence in schools continues to reflect wider community transmission.

"Where students have to self-isolate, schools are providing high-quality remote education."

  • ITV News is looking to speak to families in Oldham or elsewhere who have been impacted by school closures or have children self-isolating at home because of Covid cases in school.

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