Changes to school 'bubble' system to be set out

6 July 2021, 10:10

Gavin Williamson will update MPs on the easing of restrictions in education settings.
Gavin Williamson will update MPs on the easing of restrictions in education settings. Picture: PA

By Emma Soteriou

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is set to update MPs on changes to the school 'bubbles' system that led to large numbers of pupils being sent home if a single child has a positive Covid test.

Mr Williamson is due to announce plans to replace the requirement with enhanced testing in a statement to MPs later.

This comes as England heads towards step four of its roadmap out of lockdown on 19 July, which will see social distancing come to an end as well as the legal obligation to wear a face mask if all goes to plan.

Read more: What did Boris Johnson announce about July 19? Five key points the PM outlined

Recent data revealed that 375,000 children were absent from schools in just one week due to Covid rules in place.

School bubbles have resulted in large groups being sent home as soon as one pupil has tested positive for the virus.

The school bubbles plans have even seen pupils faking lateral flow tests in order to get time off school.

Read more: How LBC highlighted the Covid bubble issue in schools

Read more: Covid rules: Find a way to keep children in class, Labour demands as 375,000 miss out

Can a fruit drink fool a lateral flow test?

Mr Williamson previously told the Commons that his priority was keeping children in schools.

"I do not think it is acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of wider society especially since they have given up so much to keep older generations safe over the last 18 months," he said at the time.

Read more: Education Secretary hopes to lift school bubble restrictions from 19 July

"Further steps will be taken to reduce the number of children who have to self-isolate including looking at the outcomes of a daily contact testing trial as we consider a new model for keeping children in schools and colleges.

"We constantly assess all available data and we expect to be able to confirm plans to lift restrictions and bubbles as part of Step 4.

"Once that decision has been made we will issue guidance immediately to schools."