Schoolchildren and staff told to self-isolate over Christmas

or Chris Reddy, this Christmas will look a little different.

As well as facing the same social restrictions as the rest of England, his son has been told to self-isolate, after coming into contact with a coronavirus case at school.

“It isn’t great, but you just have to adapt,” he tells The Independent.

Reedy, who lives in Bolton, was originally planning on going to his mother’s house for a “quieter” Christmas than normal – but this is no longer possible, with his child in Year 2 having to isolate until Boxing Day.

However, he is not letting the change in circumstances get him, or his son, down. “The way we have chosen to look at it,” he says, “was you may miss your gran on one day, but you’ll see them on the 26th.”

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The government said it expected schools in England to remain open until the last day of term on Thursday, with Downing Street saying “not being in school has a detrimental impact on children’s learning as well as their own personal development and mental health”. 

Several London councils were met with resistance from the government this week after recommending all teaching move online for the final week.

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Headteachers had also called for more flexibility to end in-person teaching earlier to reduce the risk of pupils and staff having to isolate over Christmas.

One teaching assistant, who asked to stay anonymous, found out this would be the case for her after she could not rule out being a close contact of a child who had tested positive at school. 

She tells The Independent she wished schools had shut “at least a few days earlier, so as not to ruin anyone’s Christmas”.

The TA from west Lancashire says she will ask her eldest daughter to make an informed decision about whether to join them on the 25th following the news.

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Meanwhile, Simon Beale, an associate assistant headteacher who had to phone parents to tell them their child had to self-isolate over Christmas, says: “It felt awful to shatter their Christmas plans. Hearing them say how they had considered not sending them in this week but decided to.”

The Independent spoke to parents last week who decided to keep their children at home for the last few days of term, to avoid risking getting a phone call telling them to isolate over Christmas Day.

One teacher tells The Independent about 100 students had been told to self-isolate at his school over Christmas. “I fundamentally believe that if the government had listened to schools, who have been asking to move online for weeks now,” he says.

Pete, who asked to be identifed only by his first name, adds: “Those 100 plus children all self-isolating now wouldn’t be in the moral dilemma of either following the law, and spending Christmas in their bedroom, or breaking the law to see loved ones.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is a national priority to keep education settings open full time and it is vital that children remain in school until the end of the term.”

They added: “Schools, colleges and early years settings across the country have worked tremendously hard to put protective measures in place that are helping reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted and our regional school commissioner teams continue to support local authorities and school trusts to remain open and help resolve any operational issues.”

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