School children and families will have to quarantine if classmate gets Covid-19
11 May 2020, 21:12 | Updated: 11 May 2020, 22:40
Pupils, teachers, and their families will be forced to quarantine for two weeks if someone in their class tests positive for coronavirus, under new Government guidance.
Official advice for schools in England published this evening says teachers and pupils will be able to get tests if they experience Covid-19 symptoms.
Class sizes will be also be slashed in half and break times and drop-off times staggered in an effort to reduce the risk of another spike of infections as some of the pupils are allowed to return to schools around the country.
But if one person in the class tests positive - whether that be a member of staff or pupil - Public Health England officials will then launch a “rapid investigation”.
This would mean everyone in that class would be sent home to self-isolate for 14 days along with people in their household.
Boris Johnson earlier unveiled plans in his “roadmap” out of lockdown for primary schools to return from June 1 at the earliest, beginning with pupils in Reception, Year 1, Year 6.
However, guidance from the Department for Education has said schools will only be able to open if the virus stays on the downward slope, and the R (virus transmission rate) remains below one.
The Prime Minister told the Commons earlier that all under-11 school children in England will get a month back in the classroom before the summer holidays.
Under the new Department for Education guidance, secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges will also be expected to “begin some face to face support” with Year 10 and Year 12 pupils from the week commencing 1 June.
It asks teachers to "supplement remote education with some face to face support for these year groups from 1 June" but does "not expect a full timetable" yet.
Nurseries will also be asked to welcome back children from 1 June, while special needs schools will begin planning towards a “phased return”.
For schools that reopen from 1 June, strict measures will be rolled out such as regular hand-washing for 20 seconds and hand sanitiser, class sizes of no more than 15, changing layouts of classrooms and timetable changes.
The fresh guidance adds that parents are “strongly encouraged” to send their children back if they are in eligible age groups.
However, fines for non-attendance will not be introduced “at this time”.
Earlier the National Education Union branded it “reckless” to reopen schools now, while a petition for parents to be allowed to refuse to send their children back has gathered more than 420,000 signatures.
Speaking about the latest measures, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "The latest scientific advice indicates it will be safe for more children to return to school from 1 June, but we will continue to limit the overall numbers in school and introduce protective measures to prevent transmission.
"This marks the first step towards having all young people back where they belong – in nurseries, schools and colleges – but we will continue to be led by the scientific evidence and will only take further steps when the time is right."