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End of bubbles and self-isolation: What the new COVID rules mean for schools

The way schools deal with the pandemic will change from 19 July, including the scrapping of the bubble isolation system.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a series of changes for how early years settings, schools and colleges handle COVID-19.

He said the government recognises the current system of bubbles and entire groups having to isolate “is causing disruption to many children’s education.

This is how the new system will work:

From step four (the government hopes this will be 19 July)

• Bubble system to end, meaning entire classes or year groups will no longer have to self-isolate if one person tests positive

• Contact tracing to be transferred from early years, schools and colleges to NHS Track and Trace

• As with the adult population, pupils will have to self-isolate if identified by NHS Track and Trace as a close contact of somebody who has tested positive

• Masks and social distancing no longer necessary in any part of a school

• No longer necessary to stagger start and finish times – but schools and colleges may continue to until the end of the summer term, if they wish

• Secondary schools and colleges must continue to carry out regular home lateral flow testing until the end of September (plus two on-site at the beginning of the autumn term), when the policy will be reviewed

• Schools running over the summer holidays, such as camps and summer schools, must continue to carry out two lateral flow tests a week for pupils

From 16 August

• Anybody under the age of 18 will not have to self-isolate if a close contact tests positive

• 18-year-olds will be treated the same as younger people until four months after their birthday to allow them to be fully vaccinated.

From the autumn term

• Fully vaccinated teachers can remain in school if a close contact tests positive – this is in line with guidance for all adults in England

• Enhanced hygiene and ventilation will remain in place for the autumn term

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