2,400 Suffolk students and staff self-isolated in final full week of term
Rising numbers of self-isolating staff and students last week were down to community spread and not a lack of rigour in school Covid-19 protocols, a Suffolk education leader has said.
Suffolk County Council data indicated that around 2,400 students and staff were forced to self-isolate in last week's final full week of term under Covid-19 protocols.
But there there was no prevalence of infection spread in any particular type of school, bubble size, or building, and Covid protocols remained as stringent as ever, according to education chiefs.
Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning, praised schools for their hard work in the tricky final weeks of term. He said: "People worked really hard to get a positive end of term for those leaving and those coming back in September.
"Across approximately 105,000 children in the compulsory school age - from Year R in primary to Year 11 - that [2,400 people] is not a small number but the majority of children were able to continue to the end of term.
"Some schools used the flexibility the DfE gave them and finished last Friday, but quite a lot of schools finished Wednesday or Tuesday."
He continued: "Having been out and about with schools in the last few weeks and meeting parents and governors, what I saw first hand was a real rigour in schools of different sizes. Schools have been really driven on that to protect children and protect staff, but of course children at half three, four o' clock every day go back out to their families."
Mr Orr said the individuals isolating were "across the board" and did not show any pattern in terms of school or bubble size.
"There was a real push to get people to the end without having to send many children home," he said.
"I don’t think we have had any complete school closures, but as the numbers came up there were bubbles that had to close.
"There was a genuine disappointment that not everybody could get to the end of the school year.
"We did see a continued positive engagement reported by staff in every type of school of children being glad to be with their friends, and disappointment that some had to go home because of the spread of the virus.
"Staff across the whole of the system were pretty well exhausted by the end because they did an awful lot to keep everything running."
It is hoped the school summer holidays will create a break in transmission among youngsters and staff, while work is already well under way on arrangements for the new school term in September.
National guidance from August 16 means that anyone with both jabs two weeks or more prior to that date, and those under 18 will not be required to self-isolate if they come into close contact with someone who tests positive.
Instead, they will be encouraged to take a PCR test, and can continue as normal if they do not test positive.
Schools are also no longer required to operate bubbles for pupils, but will be expected to have a plan to re-introduce them if an outbreak occurs.