‘Children are not guinea pigs’: parents and teachers on plans to stop self-isolation in England

Schoolchildren in 英国 may no longer have to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who is Covid positive, ministers are expected to announce.

The current system of “bubbles” of pupils – who quarantine at home if one of them is found to be infected by Covid – is likely to be replaced by testing.

Last week was the most disrupted week since schools fully reopened in March, 什么时候 nearly 400,000 pupils missed school because of coronavirus infections, self-isolation or school closures.

Three parents and three teachers share their views about the expected changes.

Cases in schools were up last week and lateral flow tests are not reliable enough, and on their own they will not stop further infections. It will be a disaster. Covid will spread faster than the test can be conducted and action taken.

We have very little idea about what impact Covid could have on children’s health in the long term and how many children could end up with long Covid as a result. This is a very high-risk haphazard game of Russian roulette our government is playing with our children’s health. Our children are not guinea pigs and I am frankly sick of having to protect them and my family from the government’s callous incompetence. John Russell, 49, parent and photographer, 伦敦

I am so relieved there are plans to end this injustice. Children have been made to carry an enormous social burden throughout the pandemic, with their lives being turned upside down. I have been so angry in recent weeks to see endless articles about whether people can have a summer holiday, meanwhile thousands of children are once again being shut in at home missing out on vital social contact and education.

Long Covid is a worry but in the grand scheme of things the past year has done a lot of damage to children already. Even older ones have been affected with their education being piecemeal and interrupted – the impact of that is massive.

When our two daughters, three and four, have been sent home to self-isolate because they’ve come into contact with a positive case, me and my husband have ended up working late into the night as we’ve spent the day juggling the children. I am on tenterhooks now to see if the proposed plans to test daily will definitely replace isolation of entire year groups, and will be keeping everything crossed. Maddy Nicholass, 33, parent and finance manager, Dorking

This year was horrible – my two children, aged nine and ten, lost months of schooling and at such a young age they need it. In January there were a few times they were sent home from school for two weeks to self-isolate. Every time it happens they get very upset. They’re actually at home self-isolating at the moment.

As a parent who is working from home, I can’t focus on work and helping them with their school work. It’s not just their education that’s affected but they need to be able to socialise too. I worry about the effect all this time out of school will have on their mental health in the future, and I think I will have to hire a tutor so they can catch up on lost time. Though testing is better than self-isolating, I’m not sure how schools will test all children every day. Nadez, 34, parent and web developer, 伦敦

I’m very worried about the new proposals. My husband and I are both double vaccinated but have caught Covid from our 24-year-old son two days after his first vaccine this week. Thankfully, neither of us was at work that day. We had PCR tests on Wednesday, which were both negative, but we developed symptoms this weekend and have now tested positive. Without self-isolation, I would have been in school all week. My son has become more ill than I’ve ever known him to be over the last 10 天. Of course I don’t want young people self-isolating. Some children at my primary school don’t have the space, equipment or family support for home learning. Another problem is the logistics of testing in school. Our reception class is currently self-isolating as an adult tested positive. Would we be expected to test them? The testing on return from lockdown in March at a local high school was a mammoth task. They currently have a whole year group out of school which would then mean up to 250 students to test daily. 学校 just don’t have spare capacity for that amount of testing. Helen Coulthard, 59, primary school speech and language therapist, Lichfield, Staffordshire

Lateral flow tests were never meant to be used as green light tests but only as red light tests, meaning you shouldn’t take a negative result as proof that one isn’t infectious. The reliance on them is scary. My school has an outbreak at the moment with 31 confirmed cases in the past week.

I don’t think onsite testing would be at all effective. Schools are clearly breeding grounds for the virus and reducing safety measures seems ridiculous. As much as we try with social distancing and masks, I have classes of 36 students sat side by side – we just can’t keep them apart enough. I’m a single parent of a two-year-old and I wouldn’t want to bring Covid home as it would be very difficult. It does make me nervous. Lauren, 42, secondary school teacher, Northamptonshire

I’m concerned because we seem to be pursuing the strategy of herd immunity through infection of children. I’m very fortunate, I’ve been double vaccinated and my children have received one dose, but if my children were 11-16 (the age of children in the school I work in), I would be very worried about them.

There doesn’t seem to be much about long Covid and the effects it will have, but we do know it exists and it can have a debilitating effect. It feels like we’re putting children in the firing line. There’s so much we can do to make schools safer, easy things like bring masks back in classrooms, but we seem to just be making them more hazardous places. It’s absolutely crazy. Sophie*, 50s, secondary school teacher, Midlands

*Name has been changed