A five-point rescue package to ease the impact of the Covid pandemic on children is being worked up by Boris Johnson’s officials after mounting pressure from Tory MPs.
The Telegraph has been passed details of a paper submitted to the Covid Operations Cabinet committee, with announcements due later this month.
One proposed change is for the requirement for schools to send home "bubbles" of students to be ditched from July 19, the earliest date for the final step of reopening in England.
Another is to end pupils self-isolating if they are flagged for coming into contact with someone with Covid from the autumn term, replaced by a system of daily tests.
A third is to continue the twice-weekly testing of all secondary pupils during term time until the end of September but then hold a review, meaning the arrangement could be scrapped by October.
The other elements are a renewed drive to vaccinate teachers and a "return to the full school day" from September, with only a positive PCR test keeping children stuck at home.
The proposals were contained in an eight-page paper circulated before a "Covid-O" meeting on Friday, written by officials in the Cabinet Office’s Covid Taskforce.
Campaign for children (Day 4)
It comes amid calls from Tory MPs, former Tory cabinet ministers and even some Downing Street insiders for school self-isolation bubbles to be scrapped.
The Telegraph this week launched a campaign calling for children to be put at the heart of the Government’s plans for recovering from the Covid pandemic.
The official proposals are likely to trigger criticism for not going far enough, especially from Tories demanding the end of school self-isolation bubbles now.
The leaked paper reveals the most granular breakdown of what Downing Street is considering announcing on July 12, a week before the final reopening stage on July 19. It comes with the Prime Minister and officials under mounting pressure to act to stop hundreds of thousands of children missing out on school while self-isolating.
How The Telegraph Campaign for Children has turned up pressure on ministers
The paper is entitled "Step Four education package" and said the Government approach being considered "can be summarised in a five-point plan".
The first step was described as "maximising vaccine uptake", which will see a new communications drive to make sure teachers and other educators are given Covid jabs. There is no consideration being given to mandating jabs for teachers, according to a well-placed government source, in the way that is being proposed for care home staff.
Ministers are yet to get official advice from government scientists on whether to vaccinate children aged 12 to 17. If they decide to go ahead, that rollout would not start until the autumn.
The second part was called "removing bubbles and the automatic requirement for schools to undertake contact tracing", potentially a change to come into effect from July 19.
It would see schools no longer encouraged to send home whole classes if one pupil tests positive, with more responsibility for contact tracing placed on national public bodies.
Self-isolation exodus from schools
The third step was "replacing requirements for under-18s who are identified as a close contact to self-isolate". They would be allowed to test daily for Covid instead with lateral flow tests. Doubt remains about the specifics of that plan.
It is hoped the setup will be in place from the autumn term, but that is dependent on whether pilots of the new system are a success.
The fourth part of the rescue package was "continue home asymptomatic testing until the end of September", meaning twice-weekly tests for secondary school pupils in term time.
A review is being proposed for the end of September, but there is no guarantee that a change will be adopted then – meaning uncertainty remains about what could come later in the year.
The final element was called "return to a full school day". Under the proposal, schools will be told students should be in class unless they test positive for Covid with a PCR test.
There will be "an expectation that unless children are ill and have a positive, asymptomatic test which is subsequently confirmed by a PCR they should be in school", one line in the paper read.
The Department for Education will also work up a plan for tackling the significant number of children who are absent from school without a valid reason.
It is understood discussions about the proposals are ongoing, with changes possible. Final decisions are expected in the coming days, with announcement due on July 12.
A government spokesman said: "Throughout the pandemic we have always sought to keep pupils in school and protect their education. As the Education Secretary has said, we expect to be able to confirm plans to lift restrictions and bubbles as part of Step 4.
"However, no final decisions have been made on this or future testing and isolation requirements."
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Children lockdown mental health callout/form