Schools do not have to tell parents if Covid-19 confirmed in child’s class
Schools do not have to tell parents if one of their child’s classmates tests positive for Covid-19, it has emerged.
Since the start of term, many parents have assumed that should there be a confirmed case of Covid-19 within their child’s class or ‘bubble’, that they would know.
For many that’s based on the assumption that the entire ‘bubble’ would be sent home to self-isolate.
But in reality – subject to the the advice of local public health teams – only ‘close contacts’ of that pupil may be told to self-isolate.
And where that is the case, it has now emerged, there is no compulsion for schools to tell parents – other than those of children who have been told to self-isolate.
Commenting on the approach, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “There is no one-size-fits-all answer to who should self-isolate if there is a case in a school.
“Schools will need to speak to the local public health team to determine who counts as a close contact in any specific case, and this will be different for different schools and different situations.
“Similarly on communication, there is no simple answer. Who is directly affected will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.
“The important point is that anyone who needs to take action (such as self-isolating or getting tested) is told to do so.
“Every school and every case is different, and schools will need to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis, in discussion with the local public health team.”
Leader of the county council’s Labour group Cllr Judi Billing has branded the approach to communication “absolutely scandalous”.
And deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Paul Zukowskyj says he is not only “very unhappy” that parents may not be told, but that the entire ‘bubble’ would not be told to take precautionary actions.
Cllr Judi Billing told the Local Democracy Reporter Service: “If this is the case, then its absolutely scandalous that people aren’t being told – because nobody lives in isolation.
“Children may live with parents with medical conditions, they have grandparents.
“Of course we have the right to know – that’s the whole point of ‘track and trace’. It cannot be right to withhold this information.”
Deputy leader of the county council’s Liberal Democrat group Cllr Paul Zukowskyj says he finds the approach “really bizarre”.
The father of three school-age children says he “very unhappy” that he may not necessarily be told – as the knowledge would impact on his decision to visit elderly relatives.
But he says the practice of defining ‘close contacts’ within a defined ‘bubble’ is itself a “serious mistake”.
“I think the ability of public health teams to define who is a close contact – and who is not – is impossible to do.
“It makes me quite angry that there seems to be this belief you can decide what contact people have had in a class of 30 based on one teacher’s observations.
“I just think this is to try and keep schools viable because the government doesn’t want to go in to lockdown again. And for me its a recipe for continued transmission.
“Actually they should be defining [close contacts] as a bubble and taking a precautionary approach. I think this is a serious mistake.”
According to the county council spokesperson government guidance on self-isolation has been the same since the start of the autumn term.
That guidance from the Department for Education defines ‘close contacts’ as face to face contact (within 1 metre) with an infected individual for any length of time; extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres) with an infected individual for more than 15 minutes; or travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with an infected person.