Bubbles, Testing and Isolation August 2021

The following information can be found in the latest Guidance published on 19 July unless stated otherwise. Direct quotes are in italics.

UPDATE: Nick Gibbs- Schools Minister- said on 7th September that the Regional Schools commissioners would be phoning up schools that went beyond the recommendations to question them as to why they had. To contact your regional commissioner visit 👉here and let them know about that schools which are going beyond the rules.

  1. The current guidance on Bubbles in schools.

We no longer recommend that it is necessary to keep children in consistent groups (‘bubbles’) or to keep groups apart as much as possible. This means that bubbles will not need to be used for any summer provision (for example, summer schools) or in settings from the autumn term.

This means that assemblies and larger group activities can resume.

However, bubbles may be reinstated if there is an outbreak. A localised outbreak is defined in Schools Covid-19 Operational Guidance as: If you have several confirmed cases within 14 days, you may have an outbreak.

  1. Contact Tracing

With the removal of bubbles from schools, there is no longer a need to send entire classrooms home due to one case.  Educational Settings are no longer in charge of contact tracing.  This information with be gathered by NHS Test and Trace which may contact the school in rare cases when the person who tested positive cannot be contacted.

Close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace and education settings will no longer be expected to undertake contact tracing.

From 16 August 2021, children under the age of 18 years old will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

Instead, children will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace, informed they have been in close contact with a positive case and advised to take a PCR test. We would encourage all individuals to take a PCR test if advised to do so.

  1. The current guidance on testing in schools

Secondary Schools.

Secondary Schools may commence testing from 3 working days before the start of term and can stagger [ ] return across the first week to manage this. Your child should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September when this will be reviewed.

Secondary schools and colleges should also retain a small on-site testing facility until further notice in case your child is unable to test themselves at home.

Primary Schools:

There is no need for primary age pupils (those in year 6 and below) to test.

  1. Previous quotes from MPs on the topic

It will not be compulsory for school pupils to take Covid tests twice a week, nor wear face coverings in class, the schools minister Nick Gibb has confirmed

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/25/covid-tests-masks-not-compulsory-english-schools-nick-gibb

Children are not under any obligation to wear face masks, the Government said on Wednesday night, telling schools not to send pupils home if they refuse to wear one.   While masks and regular Covid tests are strongly encouraged, they are not legal requirements and pupils should not be “denied education” as a result of non-compliance, officials said. 

 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/02/24/schools-told-not-punish-pupils-refuse-wear-masks/

 

Financial support:

There may now be a provision for a one of financial support payment of £500 if your child has been advised to self-isolate.  This is done on a local authority level and is dependent on circumstances.  Further information can be found here: Claiming financial support under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme

Frequently Asked Questions:

There is no mention of testing being either mandatory or voluntary in any of the new guidance.  Previously testing was voluntary in all settings as laid out in Asymptomatic testing: secondary schools and colleges.

No, they can not. Attendance is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age.

Yes, they can. This needs to be done in coordination with Local Public Health

They need to isolate and take a PCR. If this is negative they can return to school. If it is positive they need to continue to isolate.

Anyone with a positive test result will need to:

  • self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance(if they test positive at school, you should arrange for them to be collected)
  • book a further test(a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test) to confirm the result, whether the test was done at home, school or college

Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the individual should continue to self-isolate.

If the PCR test is taken within the 2 days following the positive LFD result and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test.

The answer is no – You should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/schools-coronavirus-covid-19-operational-guidance#asymptomatic-testings