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Thousands of Suffolk school pupils forced into coronavirus self-isolation just before summer break




The boss of a schools trust said the number of pupils told to self-isolate dwarfed that of those testing positive, as it emerged thousands of pupils in Suffolk were forced to quarantine in the run up to the summer holidays.

Latest figures from Suffolk County Council revealed that 2,377 schoolchildren in the county were forced to stay at home in the seven days up to start of this week because they were in a bubble with a positive case.

Schools across Suffolk broke up for the summer holidays yesterday, with many ending classes on Friday, and the thousands of students who were told they must stay indoors joined the more than one million across the country stuck at home.

Thousands of pupils across Suffolk were in self-isolation on the seven days up to Monday, the county council said; Picture:Danny Lawson/PA
Thousands of pupils across Suffolk were in self-isolation on the seven days up to Monday, the county council said; Picture:Danny Lawson/PA

Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership, said the numbers of children who had been forced to separate from their classmates had 'caused massive upheaval for leaders, teachers and families'.

“The current system of school bubbles and isolation has created a scenario where you can count the number of positive cases on one hand, but the number of students isolating going into the hundreds," said the chief executive, whose trust looks after schools including Felixstowe School, The Bridge School in Ipswich, Woodhall Primary School in Sudbury, County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill Community Sixth Form, and Newmarket Academy.

“This has caused massive upheaval for leaders, teachers and families as well as the educational and mental health impact on those students missing yet more school.

Tim Coulson, the chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership which runs schools across Suffolk.
Tim Coulson, the chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership which runs schools across Suffolk.

Earlier this month Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, announced the school bubble system - where entire classes would be plunged into self-isolation - is being scrapped and only those who test positive for Covid-19 will have to quarantine.

Mr Coulson said the situation 'could not carry on' and welcomed the end of school bubbles from the beginning of the next academic year.

As part of the changes, which kick in from August 16, pupils will no longer have to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive.

County Upper School, in Bury St Edmunds, is one of the schools run by Unity Schools Partnership in Suffolk. Picture: Mark Bullimore
County Upper School, in Bury St Edmunds, is one of the schools run by Unity Schools Partnership in Suffolk. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Schools will no longer need to stagger start and finish times, and children who have been contacted by contact tracers will be advised to take a PCR test.

In an end of term message for his pupils and staff, Mr Coulson praised them for going 'above and beyond'.

“Certainly the last 12 months will be one we will never forget. I make no apology for once again paying tribute to the incredible hard work, resilience and determination of everyone connected with the education system as well as the support of all trust staff, students, families and school communities," he said.

“They have all repeatedly gone above and beyond and I hope they have the peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable summer holidays that they truly deserve.”

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