Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders comments on the government’s announcement that Covid self-isolation and testing rules will end on Thursday 24 February.
“We understand the desire to live with Covid and to return to a semblance of normality after two years of societal and educational upheaval. Our concern is that just by saying that it is at an end does not make it so.
“By removing the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test, along with twice-weekly testing for pupils and staff in schools and colleges, there is a risk that this may actually lead to an increase in disruption if it means that more positive cases come into the classroom. Staff and pupils are often absent not just because they test positive but because they are actually ill with the coronavirus and this will obviously not abate if there is more transmission.
“We are also concerned about where this leaves vulnerable staff and pupils, or those with a household member who is vulnerable. These individuals will inevitably feel more scared and less protected by the relaxation of even the fairly limited control measures that are currently in place.
“The change in the rules to advise rather than require self-isolation also opens the door for conflict with parents who may interpret symptoms that may or may not be coronavirus differently from their child’s teachers.
“Like everyone else, we want to see the back of coronavirus, but this does feel like a headlong rush rather than a sensibly phased approach. The goal must be to keep children in the classroom for as much of the time as possible. This plan does not seem to meet that objective and may in fact be counter-productive.”