Sunderland calls on Government intervention on overly risk-averse school isolation rules

James Sunderland calls on the Government to intervene where schools are requiring whole classes or year groups to isolate or are cancelling extracurricular activities, particularly for Year 6 leavers, when just one child has received a positive covid test. 

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for his excellent response on schools last week, but may I please press him a bit further? Parents in Bracknell and beyond are telling me that entire classes and year groups are still being isolated because of one positive covid test; that extracurricular activities are being banned, not least for year 6 leavers; and that parents cannot attend sports days, even when they would otherwise be outside and distanced. Headteachers will be beholden to the unions for as long as they are permitted to use their judgment. Something has gone very badly wrong. Does the Leader of the House feel, as I do, that the only way to get children back to school and living normal lives is for the Government to mandate it?

Mr Rees-Mogg (The Leader of the House of Commons)

I am, obviously, torn on this matter, because I believe in local decision making. I believe that headmasters and headmistresses throughout the country can show leadership. Some sports days are going ahead. I will be going, on 7 July, to the Hill House School field day, which is going to be arranged in a covid-secure manner. I encourage the leadership of schools to work with the regulations in a way that is allowed and that means things can happen. It is sometimes easier, administratively, to stop things and say no than it is to look at how to be positive and allow things to happen. I reiterate the point that I made last week: while in some cases a whole class may be required to isolate, many settings use seating plans and other means to identify close contacts in order to minimise the number of individuals who need to isolate. Yes, we should push from the top, but there should also be a response locally, from individual schools, to try to ensure that children get to school as often as is possible.