1,000 pupils forced to self-isolate after Covid cases confirmed at 45 schools

Almost 1,000 school pupils across Suffolk have been forced to self-isolate in the last week due to the impacts of coronavirus.

A total of 967 pupils and 49 members of staff in the county were made to self-isolate in the last week, after 76 cases of coronavirus were recorded among students and staff in 45 schools.

Under government guidelines, anyone deemed to have been in “close contact” with an infected person should self-isolate at home for 14 days.

According to the NHS, close contact refers to face-to-face contact (under one metre) for any length of time, or being between one to two metres next to someone for more than 15 minutes.

This therefore means that schools are not always forced to close entirely should cases be confirmed among pupils or staff – although they can should staff levels be low.

MORE: Ipswich school forced to close until end of lockdown

One example, Hillside Primary School in Ipswich, is closed until the end of the current national lockdown, where there have been five confirmed cases of Covid-19.

The school, which serves the Maidenhall and Stoke areas of town, was forced to close because of the impact this, combined with usual sickness, had on staffing levels.

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Other schools however, such as Ormiston Sudbury Academy, have instead closed to certain year groups – in their case, Year 7 – or have instead only sent a handful of pupils home.

Jack Abbott, Labour spokesman for education at Suffolk County Council and a governor of Hillside Primary, said he believes a mass testing regime should be made available for schools to help staff and ensure children do not miss out on vital education.

Suffolk County Council has confirmed however that testing to pupils, staff and their families is made available in the event of an outbreak – including for Hillside.

MORE: What to do if your child has to self-isolate

Mr Abbott added he is enquiring on whether a proportion of the council’s hardship fund could go to laptops for disadvantaged children.

He sad: “Every week we are seeing hundreds of pupils missing out on their education and dozens of teachers having to isolate because of the government’s failure to fix test and trace and introduce a mass testing regime in schools. We don’t need it to be world-beating, we just need it to work.

“We know that the digital divide is significant - if we have had 1,000 children off school in the last week alone, how many are not learning because they do not have access to a laptop?

“Teachers and schools have been unbelievable and have gone over and above in helping children and young people throughout this pandemic. But education has been treated as an afterthought by the government – unless they finally get a grip on testing, I fear this disruption will only continue.”