Removing self-isolation may accelerate covid spread in schools

Responding to the statement by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in the Commons, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union said:

“The announcement from the Education Secretary comes as little surprise given the statements made by the Prime Minister less than 24 hours ago.

“No one wants to see pupils’ education facing further disruption but it is unclear how the Government’s announcements as a whole will prevent further disruption from happening.

“Removing the requirement for pupils to self-isolate when they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive may well accelerate the spread of the virus in schools and cause even higher levels of disruption for pupils and teachers.

“Today’s announcement comes against a backdrop of rising numbers of new cases and increased hospitalisations which are unlikely to peak until the end of August, just as schools prepare to reopen for the start of the new term.

“The announcement that there will be a requirement for onsite testing of pupils at the start of the autumn term is welcome; however, the Government needs to confirm to schools that they will be able to deploy additional mitigations to prevent the spread of the virus if they believe it is necessary to do so.

“The Government must also publish the scientific evidence and advice it is relying on to support the changes it is planning to make.

“Schools will also be looking to the Government for clear guidance on how they will be expected to deal with conflicting views from parents over safety and how to prevent pupils who refuse to be tested from spreading the virus on to others.

“Yet again, the government announcements risk more confusion at a time when there is a need for clarity and certainty.

“Today’s announcement, by putting the responsibility for safety onto individuals and schools, represents a fundamental failure of the government to steer the country safely out of the pandemic.”