Q&A: What are the rules if your child is sent home from school to self-isolate?
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Thousands of children across Norfolk have been told to stay at home after positive coronavirus cases at schools.
Since all pupils returned to the classroom in September dozens of nurseries, schools and colleges have had to take measures.
Some schools have been forced to close temporarily, while others have asked whole year groups or classes to stay at home, with lessons being taught remotely instead.
At the end of last week almost a quarter of Norfolk’s 422 schools were currently dealing with a pupil or a member of staff testing positive.
But the rules on what families can and can’t have led to some confusion, particularly as some schools seem to be taking different action. So what are the rules?
What have schools been told to do?
Nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges have been advised to manage confirmed cases of coronavirus which could mean children being asked to self-isolate for 14 days, based on advice from the Public Health England or local health protection teams, if they have been in close, face to face contact with someone who has tested positive.
When should I not send my child to school?
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If they or someone else in the household are showing coronavirus symptoms. You should arrange a test if you or your child develops symptoms then inform the school of the results.
If the test is positive your child will need to stay at home to self-isolate for 10 days from when symptoms started, while others in the same household need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person developed symptoms.
When does my child not need a test?
It’s autumn so there are other illnesses that children can pick up, like a normal common cold. Your child does not need a test if they simply have a runny nose, are sneezing or feeling unwell, but do not have Covid-19 symptoms, like a temperature, cough or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste.
Children who are advised to self-isolate because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, for example, another pupil in their class, but are not showing symptoms themselves also don’t need to have a test.
What if another pupil in my child’s class has tested positive?
That’s when the school or nursery will alert the parents of other children within their bubble, or at least those they’ve been in close contact with.
The size of bubbles varies from school to school and while at some it is restricted to just one class, at others there are entire high school year groups and in some primaries, two full year groups.
If your child’s bubble is affected then he or she needs to self-isolate at home for 14 days. This means not leaving the house, except to go in the garden, and not meeting up with anyone from another household.
What about my other children?
No other members of the household have to isolate unless your child then gets symptoms themselves. That means that any siblings can still go to school - something that’s proving controversial among mums and dads.
So while parents with younger children will effectively be isolating - to stay with their child - those with older children, who are capable of looking after themselves, can carry on as usual, following the rules on social distancing and hygiene.
What if a child develops symptoms whilst at school?
If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or other symptoms, schools have been told they must be sent home.
Parents will be called to collect them and in the meantime the pupil will be moved to an isolated room, or if not possible, moved to an area at least two-metres away from other people. Staff should maintain that distance. If not possible, for example with a young child, they should wear suitable PPE.
What if the school says we must all self-isolate if a child is sent home?
This isn’t the Test and Trace guidance. Public Health England says that if a child or staff member at a school tests positive, and they had attended the school in the 48 hours prior to developing symptoms, direct and close contacts will be identified and advised regarding self-isolation by a contact tracer.
However other household members of the wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.
• More details about coronavirus cases in schools can be found at Public Health England