‘Children are not guinea pigs’: Parents and teachers plan to stop self-isolation in England | schools

Ministers are expected to announce that schoolchildren in England may not have to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with Covid.

The current ‘bubble’ system for pupils – who are self-isolating at home if someone is found to have Covid – could potentially be replaced by testing.

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

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

“We have very little idea about the impact that Covid could have on children’s health.”

John Russell.
John Russell, 49. Photography: John Russell

Cases in schools soared last week, lateral flow tests cannot be relied upon enough, and on their own won’t stop more infections. It will be a disaster. Covid will spread faster than testing and action can be taken.

We have very few ideas about the effect that Covid could have on children’s long-term health and the number of children who could end up with long-term Covid as a result. This is a high-risk random game of Russian roulette that our government plays with the health of our children. Our children are not guinea pigs and I am frankly tired of having to protect them and my family from the cruel incompetence of the government. John Russell, 49, father and photographer, London

“Long Covid is a concern but in the grand scheme of things last year it has already caused a lot of harm to children”

Maddy Nicholas.
Maddy Nicholas, 33. Photography: Maddy Nicholas

I am very relieved that there are plans to end this injustice. Children have been forced to bear an enormous social burden throughout the pandemic, as their lives have been turned upside down. I’ve been so pissed off in recent weeks to see countless articles about whether people can take a summer vacation, and at the same time, thousands of children are once again locked into their homes and missing out on basic social contact and education.

Long Covid is a concern but in the grand scheme of things last year it has done a lot of damage to kids already. Even the elderly have been affected by the gradual and interruption of their education – and the effect has been enormous.

When our two daughters, three and four, were sent home to self-isolate because they came in contact with a positive case, my husband and I ended up working late at night as we spent the day playing. children. I am now very anxious to see if the proposed plans for daily testing will certainly replace the isolation of entire year’s groups, and keep everything cross-cut. Madi Nicholas, 33, father and CFO, Dorking

“I am concerned about the impact of time spent outside of school on their mental health in the future.”

This year has been awful – my two children, aged nine and ten, have lost months of school and at such a young age they need it. In January, they were sent home from school several times for two weeks to self-isolate. Every time that happens they get very upset. They are actually isolating themselves at home at the moment.

As a parent who works from home, I cannot focus on working and helping them with their schoolwork. Not only has their education been affected but they need to be able to socialize as well. I worry about the effect all this time outside of school will have on their mental health in the future, and I think I’ll have to hire a teacher so they can make up for lost time. Although testing is better than self-isolating, I’m not sure how schools will test all children every day. Nadez, 34, father and web developer, London

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

Helen Coulthard.
Helen Coulthard, 59 years old. Photography: Helen Coulthard

I am very concerned about the new proposals. My husband and I have both been vaccinated twice, but we contracted Covid from our 24-year-old son two days after his first vaccination this week. Fortunately, neither of us were at work that day. We did PCR tests on Wednesday, both negative, but we developed symptoms this weekend and the tests are now positive without self-isolation, I would have been in school all week. My son has gotten sicker than I have known in the past 10 days. Of course I don’t want young people to isolate themselves. Some of the children in my elementary school do not have the space, equipment, or family support to learn at home. Another problem is the logistics of testing in the school. Our reception class is currently self-isolating as an adult who has tested positive. Are we expected to test it? Testing back from lockdown in March at a local high school was a huge undertaking. They currently have a full public pool outside of school which means that up to 250 students are tested per day. Schools do not have spare capacity for this amount of testing. Helen Coulthard, 59, speech-language pathologist at Primary School, Litchfield, Staffordshire

“I don’t think on-site testing will ever be effective”

Lateral flow tests were not meant 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 someone is not contagious. Relying on them is scary. My school has an outbreak at the moment with 31 confirmed cases in the last week.

I don’t think on-site testing will ever be effective. Schools are clearly a breeding ground for the virus, and limiting safety measures seems absurd. As much as we try with social distancing and masks, I have classes of 36 students who sat side by side – we can’t separate them enough. I’m a single father of a two-year-old and I don’t want to bring Covid home because it would be too difficult. It makes me nervous. Lauren, 42, secondary teacher, Northamptonshire

‘It seems we are making schools more dangerous places’

I’m concerned because it looks like we’re following a herd immunity strategy by infecting children. I’m very fortunate, I’ve had a double vaccine and my kids got a single shot, but if my kids were 11-16 (the kids’ age at the school I work at), I’d be very worried about them.

There doesn’t seem to be much about the prolonged Covid virus and the effects it will have, but we do know that it is there and can have a devastating effect. Looks like we’re putting the kids in the line of fire. There’s a lot we can do to make schools safer, easy things like putting masks back into classrooms, but it seems like we’re making them more dangerous places. He’s totally crazy. Sophie*, 50s, High School, Midlands

*Name changed

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