Children missing school to avoid self-isolation

As reported by BBC news, Welsh parents are keeping their children off school so they can avoid self-isolating ahead of the summer holidays

Heddwen Lois Williams said “it’s something we’ve got to do” before a family trip away. For the week ending 2 July, there were 8,393 unauthorised absences in Wales – up 1,000 on the previous week. Education minister Jeremy Miles said children had lost a lot of school in the past year and it was important they attended. However, for the week ending 2 July, 84.2% of pupils were in the classroom – the lowest rate since the return after Easter holidays.

Heddwen, 37, who is also a primary school teacher, said she had no choice but to keep Seren, Deian and Owain Iago off school in Caernarfon, Gwynedd. Instead of being in lessons, they have been playing football in their grandparents’ garden.

Heddwen said: “I know my husband and I still have to go to work, but then we decided that we don’t really have to send the children to school, so we’ve decided to keep them away for the last week.”

Seren is in Year 7 – the first year of secondary school – while Deian and Owain Iago are in Year 3 and reception, respectively. As her children are young, Heddwen is not too worried about the affect in their education.

“I’ll be honest – it’s the last week before the summer and I know everybody is starting to wind down. So no, because of the timing, I’m not feeling guilty about them losing anything,” she added.

“I think it’s been a hard year for everyone and I think it’s something we’ve got to do, because the children are really looking forward to a nice family break. That’s the decision we’ve done and we’re happy with that decision.”

The children’s grandparents are looking after them ahead of a staycation next week and Heddwen said she knows of others taking similar steps.

“Some other parents have tried to reduce the risk by not taking them on the school bus, for example, just to get those bubbles down.”

Figures released on Thursday showed 549 cases in the preceding week were linked to schools – almost a fifth of all new COVID-19 cases in Wales. Positive cases in schools have led to thousands of children having to self-isolate.

At one point two weeks ago, all remaining pupils at Rhyl High School in Denbighshire were in isolation. While fines may be issued for unauthorised school absences, Welsh government guidance says: “Punitive measures, including fines, would not be appropriate measures to take unless authorities deem it necessary to pursue a small number of cases relating to persistent absence, which are unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Miles told BBC Radio Cymru’s Dros Frecwast school was where children got “the best education and support”.

He added: “I want to make sure that they have the opportunity to be in school to be able to build on what is needed after the last year.”

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