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

30 June 2021, 06:00 | Updated: 30 June 2021, 06:30

Labour will demand the Government acts to keep pupils in school
Labour will demand the Government acts to keep pupils in school. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Labour is set to demand the Government acts to keep children in school after new data revealed 375,000 pupils were absent because of Covid rules.

The party is also set to ask how children who are eligible for free school meals will get them outside of term time if they have to self-isolate.

Around one in 20 state school students were out of the classroom on June 24, either because they had to leave due to contact with a Covid case, were suspected of having been infected or received a positive test.

The forced absences have led to frustration for pupils, parents and teachers.

This week, a parent whose son was had to leave school for 10 days told LBC the current system was a "disgusting way to treat children".

Read more: 375,000 pupils absent under Covid school rules

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

Another said 300 children in his son's school year were sent home after a pupil tested positive for Covid.

The Government is considering replacing quarantine rules with daily testing.

Now, Labour has said it will use an urgent question in the House of Commons on Wednesday to demand the Government acts to keep pupils in school.

James O'Brien caller explains Austria's method for Covid in schools

It will also ask for clarity on how 1.74 million children who are eligible for free school meals will get them during the summer holiday if they have to self-isolate and miss out on attending the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, which supports disadvantaged school children outside of term time.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said: "Ministers' shambolic mismanagement of our borders has left children's education exposed to damaging disruption from the Delta variant.

Read more: 'Children are being blamed': Calls for change to Covid isolation rules in schools

"With over 110,000 primary children on free school meals missing out on school last week we urgently need to know what support will be in place this summer holiday to ensure self-isolation does not mean children missing out on meals.

"Protecting our children's education should be the Government's top priority but once again ministers have been content to sit on the sidelines as schools fight to keep children learning. Ministers cannot wait until September, action must be taken now."

Daily testing could replace school self-isolation rules

Education minister Nick Gibb told LBC that a trial has been carried out in schools to see if daily testing can replace the need for children to isolate.

"We've conducted the trial to see whether we can implement a different system to avoid having to self isolate because we have to look to make sure that it is effective, we'll take advice on that when the scientists look at all that data," he told LBC's Nick Ferrari on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We are provisionally asking secondary schools and colleges to prepare to offer on-site testing when students return for the new academic year, so that schools are ready in case it is needed to keep as many children as possible in face-to-face education.

"We will provide further details about the approach to protective measures and test and trace in education from September in due course."

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