With almost all Covid-19 measures set to be lifted in England from 19 July, it has been announced that school bubbles will also be scrapped.
The aim of school bubbles was to minimise mixing between lots of different pupils and teachers, and to limit the spread of the virus.
‘It is our plan to remove bubbles’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons: “I can confirm that on 19 July, it is our plan to remove bubbles and to end the requirement for early year settings, schools and colleges to routinely carry out contact tracing.
“And I will have more to say on how we intend to exempt under-18s who are close contacts from the requirement to self-isolate.”
Last week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had said that he wanted to see remaining Covid restrictions in school “removed as quickly as possible”, including bubbles.
Speaking to Parliament, he said: “We constantly assess all available data and we expect to be able to confirm plans to be able to lift all restrictions and bubbles as part of Step 4.
“Once that decision has been made, we will issue guidance immediately to schools.”
‘The way forward is testing - not bubbles’
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “On the damage to children’s education, we are really doing everything we can to minimise that, a massive catch up plan as you know, but I think what a lot of people, a lot of parents and teachers and pupils, want to see is a different approach to outbreaks in schools.
“The Secretary of State for Education will be announcing later this week how we are going to move away from sending bubbles home and moving away from contact isolation for pupils to greatly reduce the impact on schools, of Covid outbreaks in those schools.
“Obviously the way forward is by testing rather than send bubbles home.”
‘A different system’
It was revealed at the end of June that ministers were planning to make big changes to the current school system, and instead turn to mass testing in schools to avoid sending large bubbles of students home should one test positive for the virus.
Figures showed that in England in June, a quarter of a million children missed school in a single week due to Covid-19 infections, self-isolation requirements and school closure.
Last week, under the current system, more than 370,000 children were sent home from school.
A senior government source told The Guardian: “We will have a different system when schools return in September which combines proportionate protections when someone tests positive with trying as much as possible to keep schools open.”