The Archbishop of York has called for the end of school bubbles and said children must be the priority in the next phase of the pandemic.
The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, the second most senior Anglican in the country, said the pandemic had been "particularly traumatic" for children and urged the Government to put them at the heart of the UK’s recovery.
This week, The Telegraph launched a campaign calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from its repeated Covid lockdowns, with action to bring an end to the disruption in schools.
Backing the campaign, the Archbishop said the Church of England, which runs a quarter of the nation’s schools and educates around one million children, was well-placed to see the "detrimental effects" the virus crisis has had on children.
"A better testing regime in schools would, I think, allow the current policy about bubbles to be modified and changed. It does seem to me there is probably a better way to do this than the current system," he told The Telegraph.
It comes as The Telegraph has learned that the Government is planning to unveil a five-step plan to try to end the chaos facing schools and quell mounting anger over the disruption.
The blueprint includes replacing self-isolation for children who may have been exposed to Covid with daily tests, but only from September and presuming pilots are a success.
Self-isolation exodus from schools
Those hoping for a return to normality will also be disappointed that children will still be required to take two tests each week at home at the start of the autumn term.
The plans risk putting Boris Johnson on a collision course with the country’s biggest teaching union, which warned that its support for scrapping bubbles could be conditional on pupils being asked to wear face masks again in September.
Calls to restore the school day to normality come amid a debate over whether children should be vaccinated against Covid, but The Telegraph can reveal that young people are already being given jabs ahead of an official decision.
The Archbishop called on ministers to axe school bubbles, which have led to hundreds of thousands of children being forced to self-isolate at home for 10 days at a time, and replace them with a better system.
"We are seeing this happen successfully on our television screens with football each night. There are ways of managing these things," he said. "We would love to see that happen in our schools because losing months of education is a serious thing for a child and a young person."
Campaign for children (Day 4)
The Most Rev Cottrell also called for children to be prioritised more generally, saying: "Now we are at a different phase of living with Covid where there are different priorities, and I think the priority now should be to our children, young people, families and schools.
"Their mental health, well-being and education opportunities have been very affected in order to help the rest of us, so now we need to give them particular and possibly even disproportionate help and support to help them make up what has been lost.
"I think that is something around which the people of this nation would unite, in the same way that we united to support the NHS. Let us now unite to support our schools and our children."
On Friday, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party became the latest senior figure in Whitehall to express dismay at the havoc the bubble policy is causing in schools.
Amanda Milling MP told Chopper’s Politics podcast: "I just don’t want to see children unnecessarily missing out on days in school. It’s so important to their future prospects being in school, having that time in school with their teachers and also with their peers as well. So let’s get them back in school being educated as quickly as possible."
How has your child been affected by lockdown? Let us know below
Children lockdown mental health callout/form