Primary school has 300 students self-isolating due to Covid cases
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The head of a primary school with 300 students off due to Covid cases hopes home lateral flow testing will help prevent "disruptive" closures in the future.
St Edmund's Catholic Primary School in Bury St Edmunds has moved to remote learning for all but Year 2 and Year 4 - which are still in school - following 22 positive coronavirus cases amongst staff and students.
This means about 300 children are currently off, said Maria Kemble, executive headteacher across the federation of St Edmund’s, St Edmund’s Pre-school and St Joseph’s.
The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wants the school bubble system to be scrapped - with official figures this week showing over 375,000 children have been sent home. The new response to Covid in schools could include more testing.
But Mrs Kemble said the government's announcements were about secondary schools, adding "it almost seems they have forgotten primary schools are a very different organisation".
"If they are going to say there's not going to be whole bubble closures, they have got to really think about what the testing might potentially look like for primary schools," she said.
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She added: "I certainly think if there were encouragements for home lateral flow testing by families on a regular basis that would certainly be helpful and that would certainly help mitigate some of the asymptomatic cases, and therefore make schools safer and potentially mean we don't have to close because we are not getting these cases coming in in the first place."
Even though St Edmund's Catholic Primary operates class bubbles of only about 30 children, Mrs Kemble said bubble closures were still "incredibly disruptive" for those families concerned.
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"If you have parents staying home from work and if you have got one child isolating and one who is not, how do you get them to school? The logistics are terrible."
The school became aware of the positive cases last Thursday and Friday.
Mrs Kemble said: "It was a surprise obviously and then it was a shock at how quickly the cases then started to escalate.
"We are all just so sad to have to go back to remote learning."
The bubble closures, which include the pre-school, mean the school is now trying to fit events and activities into the last week of term so the children don't miss out.
"Especially after the last 18 months we need all these things to go ahead - the sports days and things and transition activities so they meet their new teachers," Mrs Kemble said.
She hopes students can start to return as of Monday and have a "positive end of term".
"Some of the issues will be around staffing where we have got staff having to isolate or who are unwell," she added.