THE school “bubble” system is being dropped and only those who test positive for Covid will have to self-isolate, the Government has announced.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs schoolchildren will no longer need to self-isolate if they are close contact of someone who tests positive from August 16.

He said it would be up to individual schools as to whether they scrap the bubble system before the summer holidays.

Schools and parents have welcomed in the news, with the “logistical nightmare” of sending dozens of children home to isolate now coming to a close.

According to the latest data, Essex pupils missed more than 870,000 days of face-to-face teaching in the autumn term after having to self-isolate or shield due to Covid.

Read more >> What Echo readers said about plans to scrap face coverings

Robin Bevan, headteacher at Southend High School for Boys, said: “Schools and colleges have contributed superbly throughout the pandemic.

“Despite the challenges, pupils at Southend High School for Boys have thrived in their learning.

“The self-isolation of close contacts – sending home bubbles – has been very effective in reducing community transmission, even if it has also proved to be a frustrating experience.

Echo: Robin Bevan

“We now welcome the clarity provided by the Government regarding how schools will operate in the autumn and hope this proves to be a step in the right direction.”

Current rules state that children have to self-isolate for ten days if another pupil in their bubble - which can be an entire year group at secondary schools - tests positive for coronavirus.

Shelley Simmons, mum of eight-year-old Fraser, who lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is anxious over the latest move.

Shelley, from Billericay, added: “The decision for him to return to school back in March was not one we took lightly and the bubble system brought some comfort.

“Now, as things are due to change quite significantly, our anxiety definitely feels heightened.

“As things stand at the moment, vulnerable children like Fraser are not yet being accepted for the vaccination so we are now extremely worried after trying to keep him safe for so long.”

Jerry Glazier, Essex secretary at the National Education Union, also urged caution.

He said: “We’re concerned the Government is just pushing ahead without measures in place to combat rising in infection.

“The Government is going to have to face up to the fact there will need to be increased testing in schools. You can’t pull bubbles without doing that.

“There will also need to be increased ventilation, wheter that’s always keeping doors and windows open or installing ventilators in classrooms.

“For each of the last four weeks, Covid cases have doubled in Essex.”

Sue Jackson, headteacher at Basildon’s Lee Chapel Primary School, which recently reported five Covid cases among pupils, added: “This is great news for children and parents. I take my hats off to parents who have managed through this.

“The bubble system has impacted children’s learning.

“They’re desperate to be in school and learning.”