CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Hundreds of pupils miss lessons due to rising Covid rates

Bubble system to be cancelled as government move to end coronavirus restrictions

09 July, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Izzy Jones at William Ellis Secondary School

HUNDREDS of pupils have been self-isolating away from classrooms amid soaring infection rates in Camden schools.

Latest figures show that some 655 pupils spent at least part of last week self-isolating.

This included pupils who had tested positive with the coronavirus or had come into contact with someone who had, either at school, or in the community.

Amid the disruption, the New Journal understands mock exams have been cancelled at some schools, with year groups hit by orders to learn from home.

Headteachers have confirmed several members of staff have also had to self-isolate.

Izzy Jones, headteacher at William Ellis school in Highgate Road, said around 40 pupils had returned last week after self-isolating.

“We’ve wanted to keep pupils in here but the national news creates drama,” she said.

“We’ve worked really successfully with Public Health but we have still had cases. This isn’t the situation we want to be in in September. We’re hoping sports day can still go ahead. We’ve not been able to run the same level of trips and residential stays that we would normally do.

“It’s a shame, particularly for those who have now missed out for two summers in a row.”

As the end of term approaches, heads said they believed they had been lucky compared to elsewhere in the country.

Both primary and secondary schools have been affected, but case numbers are far higher in secondary age pupils. According to government figures released on Tuesday, more than 640,000 pupils across England are self-isolating.

The number in Camden totalled 3.5 per cent of the school population.

Gary Moore, the headteacher at Regent High

Bubble systems are in place which stops interaction with other classes or other year groups to cut down transmission if a child gets the virus. New government guidance announced this week said these will be abolished from July 19 as part of the end of its coronavirus rules.

Masks will no longer have to be worn, social distancing won’t be needed and staggered school starts will end.

Outbreaks have also been seen at Camden School for Girls, where several pupils have had to isolate.

At La Sante Union all-girls Catholic school in Highgate Road, headteacher Sophie Fegan confirmed that four cases have been identified in the past three weeks after none since the Easter break in April.

And Gary Moore, head of Regent High, said: “Since our return to school after the Easter holiday, there have only been two confirmed Covid-19 cases in our staff and student bodies.”

Gerald Clark, the head of Camden NEU union, said he was aware of “quite a few” bubbles being closed over the past four to five weeks.

He also criticised government guidance only changing recently.

“Our members are really worried about how this will impact on the mental health of our children,” he said. “We have never seen it as bad as it is. They have been missing school, and the amount of depression is worrying.”

Camden’s schools chief, Labour councillor Angela Mason, said: “I’m confident in the way our schools are managing their operations to protect school staff and pupils.

“Each school has robust safety provisions in place and detailed risk assessments are kept under constant review to ensure any issues that arise are properly dealt with.”

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