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Oldham Council leader calls for urgent action over school isolation

Councillor Arooj Shah.

With 14 per cent of Oldham's children self-isolating from school, Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah is calling on the government to take urgent action.

As of Thursday 1 July, there are 6,265 school pupils in Oldham self-isolating from school due to Covid self-isolation practices – up from 4,109 just over one week before on Wednesday 23 June.

With approximately 45,000 school children in Oldham, that's around 14 per cent of school children now out of the classroom and at home.

There are also 411 school staff self-isolating which, combined with the 6,265 children, means that across 72 schools in the borough there’s a total of 199 bubbles of children and teachers self-isolating.

Now, the council's leader is calling on the government for an urgent review of the approach to self-isolation to address the increasing number of children missing vital time in school.

Councillor Shah said: “With more and more of Oldham’s school children having to self-isolate something must be done to get them back in the classroom where they should be.

“It cannot be overstated how much of an impact not being able to go to school is having on these children and their education. We run the risk of having a generation of young people left behind not just here in Oldham, but elsewhere in Greater Manchester and in similar areas where rates of self-isolation are much higher than in other parts of the country.

“I’m calling on Government to commit to a new plan to address the ongoing inequality that these school children are now facing. We need a new approach that minimises the impact on children’s education and we need it now, not in three weeks’ time. We also need a plan for fair catch up funding so that we can try to ensure Oldham’s young people aren’t held back as a result of this pandemic.”

Gerard Jones, Managing Director of Children and Young People for Oldham Council, said: “Every day in school counts. Whilst support is still being given to those self-isolating at home it’s no substitute for being in school. If exams go ahead as planned next year, children in places such as Oldham, who have missed more school than their peers in more affluent parts of the country which have had lower rates of Coronavirus will find themselves put at even more of a disadvantage.

“The trial of the Daily Contact Testing in schools came to an end last week. This would keep children in school even if they are contacts. We’re asking that the findings of this programme are communicated to us as soon as possible, and this is rolled out as standard if the evidence shows it is safe. 

“We’re also asking the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to come to a decision as soon as possible on whether 12+ year olds should be vaccinated so that we can ensure we maximise take-up ready for the start of the new school year. 

“We need a proper plan in place now and one for September as well to give us the support we need to help these children.”

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