Gavin Williamson 'to scrap school bubbles from 19 July' to keep children in classrooms

The Health Secretary said “as we open wider society up, we will stick to the principle that children’s education and freedom comes first”

School bubbles could be scrapped on 19 July as part of the next step of easing Covid restrictions in England, according to the Education Secretary.

Gavin Williamson also told MPs he believes pupils “would not be facing” bubble arrangements in September.

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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wants to see disruption to education minimised (Getty Images)

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At a glance: 5 key points

- Labour warned data showed 375,000 children were out of school the school week from 21 June, as a result of Covid

- Williamson added he wants to end regular Covid testing for schoolchildren “at the earliest and most realistic possible stage”, although he acknowledged this was a long-term aim

- Concerns have been raised about a generation of ‘ghost children’ who won’t be able to climb the education ladder and enjoy opportunities

- Williamson said he is working with Health Secretary Sajid Javid to take the next steps

What’s been said

Answering an urgent question on the impact of Covid on young people’s attendance in education, Mr Williamson told the Commons on 30 June: “What I want to see is these restrictions including bubbles removed as quickly as possible along with wider restrictions in society.

“I do not think it is acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of wider society especially since they have given up so much to keep older generations safe over the last 18 months.

“Further steps will be taken to reduce the number of children who have to self-isolate including looking at the outcomes of a daily contact testing trial as we consider a new model for keeping children in schools and colleges.

“We constantly assess all available data and we expect to be able to confirm plans to lift restrictions and bubbles as part of Step 4.

“Once that decision has been made we will issue guidance immediately to schools.”

Background

Concerns have been raised in recent weeks and months about the interpretation of rules which have resulted in large groups of pupils being sent home for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble tests positive for Covid.

Additional reporting by PA.