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

·2-min read

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