Calvin Robinson slams 'miserable hard left' for school criticism
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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said sending home groups of pupils after one positive case will end when the country fully reopens, expected to be July 19. Classroom absence rates linked to coronavirus hit a record high last week since classes fully returned in March. More than 640,000 pupils were off school – up from around 384,000 the week before. The Education Secretary said the system had been essential when vaccination rates in the country were low but it is hampering schooling and is no longer needed.
He said it will be up to schools if they want to keep the system in place if their term runs beyond freedom day.
He added: “The system of bubbles and isolation is causing disruption to many children’s education.
“That is why we’ll be ending bubbles and transferring contact tracing to the NHS Test and Trace system for early years settings, schools and colleges.
“I do not think it is acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of wider society, especially since they have given up so much to keep older generations safe during this pandemic.”
Mr Williamson said some protective measures, including enhanced hygiene and ventilation, will remain in place for the autumn term.
But face masks, social distancing measures and staggered start and finish times will end. Education union leaders have criticised the Government’s move to scrap school bubbles and end other restrictions.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It seems clear the Government policies are based on a new form of herd immunity strategy.
“They are hoping that the increase in vaccination rates and the increase in infection rates across the summer will eventually get cases to fall simply because there is no one left to infect.”
Around one in 12 state school pupils, 8.5 per cent, did not attend class for Covid-19-related reasons on July 1, up from 3.3 per cent on June 17, Department for Education statistics revealed.
Current rules state children have to self-isolate for 10 days if a pupil in their bubble, which can be an entire year group at secondary school, tests positive for Covid-19.
Around £1.4billion was announced last month to help pupils catch up but experts said £15billion is needed. Pupils have lost a third of their learning time amid Covid. A study by the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Exeter found the poorest suffered most.
Considering both learning at home and in class, the analysis suggests pupils in England on average lost 61 days of schooling between March 2020 and April 2021. The usual school year is 190 days.
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