School Covid isolation rules: Will isolation force schools to shut? Rules explained

Boris Johnson is looking at reducing the self-isolation period

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Self-isolation is one of the few rules ministers have mandated for the UK, with positive cases and their contacts required to quarantine themselves. Unfortunately, the hundreds of thousands of daily infections mean the same number of isolators. The pressure has forced several workplaces into tight spots, and it now threatens to do the same with schools.

What are the self-isolation rules for schools?

The first term of 2022 will see children return to primarily in-person education while their parents work from home.

But while the advice for adults isolating is relatively straightforward for adults, it varies for children.

Whether they have to self-isolate or not depends on their age, their own and their family members’ Covid status.

According to Government advice, children must self isolate if they test positive for Covid.

If they test positive at home, they will have to stay there for 10 days.

Parents will have to pick up children who receive a positive result at school.

Official messaging has also outlined two other reasons children should stay at home.

They should not leave the house for a childminder, school or college if they have more than one primary Covid symptom.

These include a high temperature (38C+), altered taste and smell, or a new, continuous cough.

Otherwise, children or teenagers should not go to an education setting if they have other reasons to stay at home, such as required quarantine.

They won’t have to self-isolate in some circumstances, however.

Pupils are exempt from isolation if someone in their household tests positive, provided they don’t have any of the Covid symptoms.

Young people aged under 18 years and six months old can also continue attending class if they are identified as a close contact.

And whole classes can stay on-site if a child tests positive while at school.

The Government advised children over five to take a lateral flow test for seven days before leaving the house.

Could schools need to close this term?

Self-isolation rules have impacted classes, albeit not as profoundly as some workplaces.

But rather than students, they have forced teachers off, causing shortages that sent classes, and even year groups, home early.

If children continue to spread Covid in classes and infections make their way to teachers, it could happen again.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said up to a quarter of teachers may have to take time off.

He told BBC Breakfast on January 8 that while the situation wouldn’t be clear until this week, early data is not promising.

Mr Barton said: “There’s a snatched snapshot taken from a small number of primary schools earlier in the week that suggested that might be around 10 percent of the staff absent.

“The Government itself is planning potentially for 25 percent of staff.”

Education minister Nadhim Zahawi had to resort to desperate measures as teacher absences bit last year.

He called on retired teachers to join the fray once more and suggested schools could merge classes.

Mr Zahawi has also suggested cutting the required isolation time to five days could help.

The Prime Minister floated the policy change today, although his official spokesperson said ministers were awaiting scientific advice before they made changes.

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