Monday 23 May 2022

Head teachers, public health chiefs call for new school quarantine rules


Pressure is mounting on government health advisors to relax the quarantine rules for schools, as an increasing number of pupils are being sent home.

On Friday, public health chiefs warned that youngsters are facing more and more problems because of the quarantine regulations. They say the rules need to be replaced because ‘the use of the quarantine tool for school pupils has missed its target and the damage to health is increasing’.

Currently complete classes are sent home if three or more pupils test positive for coronavirus within a week. Research by school heads organisation AVL suggests that as many as one in four primary school classes could be home at any one time and this is only likely to increase as Omicron spreads.

Digital education, used when classes are sent home or during lockdowns, is leading to increasing developmental delays, the experts say. This is due in part to the difficulty of learning in a busy home environment, and because some parents cannot support their children in the process.

The government has already relaxed the quarantine rules for people who have been fully vaccinated, including a booster, or who had coronavirus within the past eight weeks.

But school pupils are not yet eligible for a booster and the campaign to vaccinate the under 12s has only just started, health board chief Andre Rouvoet said in an opinion piece in the Volkskrant on Friday.

Social isolation

The social isolation is also serious, Rouvoet said. ‘Pupils who are in quarantine are not allowed to have physical contact with classmates or friends. Young people are struggling with loneliness and depression and feel that they have ended up in a hopeless situation.’

The coronavirus measures have led to social contacts being curtailed for a long period, he said, and ‘children’s social and emotional resilience is declining rapidly’.

AVL chairwoman Ingrid Doornbos told broadcaster NOS that the current situation is also detrimental to the quality of education because schools are taking so much time with organisational issues.

The government’s Outbreak Management Team is looking at the quarantine rules for schools at its meeting on Friday.

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