School leaders are forcing hundreds of pupils to isolate at home for two weeks after just one child tests positive for coronavirus.

Whole year groups are being sent home amid major confusion among teachers and local public health officials over the Government’s official guidance for schools.

Current guidance to schools states: ‘Maintaining distinct groups or ‘bubbles’ that do not mix makes it quicker and easier in the event of a positive case to identify those who may need to self-isolate and keep that number as small as possible.’

But many schools have designated whole year groups as a bubble, meaning that hundreds of pupils are being told to isolate in the event of a positive test.

School leaders are forcing hundreds of pupils to isolate at home for two weeks after just one child tests positive for coronavirus. Whole year groups are being sent home amid major confusion among teachers and local public health officials over the Government's official guidance for schools. (File photo)

School leaders are forcing hundreds of pupils to isolate at home for two weeks after just one child tests positive for coronavirus. Whole year groups are being sent home amid major confusion among teachers and local public health officials over the Government's official guidance for schools. (File photo)

School leaders are forcing hundreds of pupils to isolate at home for two weeks after just one child tests positive for coronavirus. Whole year groups are being sent home amid major confusion among teachers and local public health officials over the Government’s official guidance for schools. (File photo)

The MoS understands that all Year 7 and Year 10 pupils at £20,000-a-year North London Collegiate School (above), a top independent day school for girls aged 4-18, have been told to isolate for two weeks after just two pupils fell ill last week.

The MoS understands that all Year 7 and Year 10 pupils at £20,000-a-year North London Collegiate School (above), a top independent day school for girls aged 4-18, have been told to isolate for two weeks after just two pupils fell ill last week.

The MoS understands that all Year 7 and Year 10 pupils at £20,000-a-year North London Collegiate School (above), a top independent day school for girls aged 4-18, have been told to isolate for two weeks after just two pupils fell ill last week.

City of London School for Girls (above), where fees cost £19,000 a year, sent more than 100 pupils home last week after one Year 8 pupil tested positive

City of London School for Girls (above), where fees cost £19,000 a year, sent more than 100 pupils home last week after one Year 8 pupil tested positive

City of London School for Girls (above), where fees cost £19,000 a year, sent more than 100 pupils home last week after one Year 8 pupil tested positive

Doctors, scientists and MPs last night warned that the ‘farcical’ policy threatened to wreck the education for a generation of children who only returned to classrooms earlier this month after spending six months at home.

It also threatens to set back efforts to return millions of workers to offices and workplaces because they have to stay at home to look after their children.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal at least a dozen schools have sent hundreds of children home in the last week after a single pupil tested positive for Covid.

Labour’s health spokesman Jon Ashworth said: ‘This is not sustainable and it’s a nightmare for parents trying to get back to work. Children could be off for two weeks, go back to school and another kid gets it then they are all back off again. When would it end?

‘I urge the Government to look at this and issue clear guidance to end this farcical situation.’

Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, said: ‘They should not be sending an entire year group home, the priority must be to keep kids learning in schools. The Government must urgently clarify in tablets of stone what is supposed to happen.’

Year 5 pupils at Medway Primary School (pictured) in Leicester have been sent home for a fortnight after a pupil tested positive for Covid

Year 5 pupils at Medway Primary School (pictured) in Leicester have been sent home for a fortnight after a pupil tested positive for Covid

Year 5 pupils at Medway Primary School (pictured) in Leicester have been sent home for a fortnight after a pupil tested positive for Covid

The MoS understands that all Year 7 and Year 10 pupils at £20,000-a-year North London Collegiate School, a top independent day school for girls aged 4-18, have been told to isolate for two weeks after just two pupils fell ill last week.

City of London School for Girls, where fees cost £19,000 a year, sent more than 100 pupils home last week after one Year 8 pupil tested positive. Year 5 pupils at Medway Primary School in Leicester have been sent home for a fortnight after a pupil tested positive for Covid.

Year 10 students at Beauchamp College in Leicester must also self-isolate for a fortnight after a fellow pupil tested positive. In Wolverhampton, around 200 pupils were sent home to self-isolate for a fortnight after two positive Covid-19 cases in two schools.

Year 1 pupils at Newsham Primary School in Blyth, Northumberland, are self-isolating for 14 days after a student in the year group was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Dr Sunil Bhopal, a leading paediatrician, said: ‘If we want children to have an education this is not a reasonable policy. Our priority needs to be educating our children through the winter. You can’t send them home every time a pupil in their year group gets ill. Fourteen days in the house without going out at all does make me really concerned about children’s physical and mental well-being. It’s quite traumatic for children.’

Dr Bhopal said schools should adopt a similar strategy to treating a meningitis outbreak, adding: ‘You don’t send the whole year group home, you isolate the closest contacts and monitor whether they fall ill.’

Dr Ellie Cannon, a GP and MoS columnist, said: ‘If you’ve got one child testing positive, isolating 200 children in a year group is disproportionate. We do not have any good evidence of Covid spreading among children at this stage. Teachers and schools need proper guidance, and we’ve got to make sure the response is proportionate.’

A Department for Education spokesperson commented that schools which sent whole year groups home ‘are following our clear published guidance on how to respond to a positive case being confirmed in a school’.

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