‘Children are not guinea pigs’: parents and teachers plan to end self-isolation in England | Schools

Schoolchildren in England may no longer have to isolate themselves after coming into contact with someone positive for Covid, ministers are expected to announce.

The current system of student “bubbles” – who quarantine themselves at home if one of them turns out to be infected with Covid – is likely to be replaced by tests.

Last week was the most disrupted week since schools fully reopened in March, when nearly 400,000 students missed school due to coronavirus infections, self-isolation or school closures.

Three parents and three school staff share their views on the expected changes.

“We have very few ideas on the impact Covid could have on children’s health”

John Russell, parent. Photography: John Russell

Cases in schools have increased over the past week and lateral flow tests aren’t reliable enough, and on their own, they won’t stop other infections. It will be a disaster. Covid will spread faster than testing can be performed and action cannot be taken.

We have very little idea of ​​the impact Covid could have on long-term children’s health and how many children could end up with long-term Covid as a result. This is a very high risk hazardous game of Russian Roulette that our government is playing with the health of our children. Our children are not guinea pigs and I am frankly fed up with having to protect them and my family from the ruthless incompetence of the government. John Russell, 49, parent and photographer, London

“Long Covid is a concern, but in the grand scheme of things last year has already done a lot of damage to children”

Maddy Nicolas
Maddy Nicholass, mother. Photography: Maddy Nicholass

I am so relieved that there are plans to end this injustice. Children have been made to carry a huge social burden throughout the pandemic as their lives are turned upside down. I have been so angry over the past few weeks to see endless articles about the possibility of a summer vacation, as thousands of children are once again locked at home, deprived of social contact and education. essential.

Long Covid is a worry, but in the grand scheme of things, the last year has already done a lot of damage to children. Even the older ones have been affected by their fragmented and interrupted education – the impact is enormous.

When our two daughters, three and four, were sent home to self-isolate because they came into contact with a positive case, my husband and I ended up working late at night while we were there. day to juggle with the children. I am now anxious to see if the proposed plans for daily testing will definitely replace the isolation of groups of whole years and keep everything crossed. Maddy Nicholass, 33, parent and financial manager, Dorking

“I am concerned about the effect that time out of school will have on their mental health in the future”

This has been a horrible year – my two kids, ages 9 and 10, have wasted months of school and at such a young age they need it. In January, on a few occasions, they were kicked home from school for two weeks to self-isolate. Whenever this happens, they are very upset. They are actually at home in self-isolation at the moment.

As a parent who works from home, I cannot concentrate on work and help them with their schoolwork. It is not only their education that is affected, but they must also be able to socialize. I’m worried about the effect all this time out of school will have on their mental health in the future, and I think I’ll need to hire a tutor so they can make up for lost time. While testing is better than self-isolation, I don’t know how schools will test all children every day. Nadez, 34, parent and web developer, London

“Some children in my primary school do not have the space, equipment or family support for home learning”

Helene Coulthard
Helen Coulthard, school speech therapist. Photography: Helen Coulthard

I am very worried about the new proposals. My husband and I are both double vaccinated but caught Covid from our 24-year-old son two days after his first vaccine this week. Fortunately, neither of us were at work that day. We had PCR tests on Wednesday, which were both negative, but we developed symptoms over the weekend and are now testing positive. Without the self-isolation, I would have been in school all week. My son has become sicker than I have ever known him in the past 10 days.

Of course, I don’t want young people to isolate themselves. Some children in my elementary school do not have the space, equipment or family support for home learning. Another problem is the logistics of testing at school. Our welcome class is currently self-isolating because an adult has tested positive. Should we test them? Testing back from the lockdown in March at a local high school was a colossal task. They currently have a whole group of years out of school, which would then mean up to 250 students to be tested daily. Schools simply do not have spare capacity for this number of tests. Helen Coulthard, 59, primary school speech therapist, Lichfield, Staffordshire

“I don’t think on-site testing would be effective at all”

Lateral flow tests were never intended to be used as green light tests, but only as red light tests, which means you shouldn’t take a negative result as proof that it is not infectious. . The dependence on them is frightening. My school is currently experiencing an outbreak with 31 confirmed cases last week.

I don’t think onsite testing is effective. Schools are clearly breeding grounds for the virus and the reduction in security measures seems ludicrous. As much as we try with social distancing and masks, I have classes of 36 students sitting side by side – we just can’t separate them enough. I am a single parent of a two year old and would not want to bring Covid home as it would be very difficult. It makes me nervous. Lauren, 42, secondary school teacher, Northamptonshire

“We seem to make schools more dangerous places”

I am worried because we seem to be pursuing the strategy of herd immunity by infecting children. I am very lucky, I have been double vaccinated and my children have been given a dose, but if my children were 11-16 years old (the age of the children at the school I work in) I would be very worried about them.

There doesn’t appear to be much about the long Covid and the effects it will have, but we do know it exists and can have a debilitating effect. We have the impression of putting children in the crosshairs. There is so much we can do to make schools safer, easy things like bringing masks back to classrooms, but we just seem to be making them more dangerous places. It is absolutely crazy. Sophie *, 50, secondary school teacher, Midlands

* Name has been changed

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