A STAGGERING one in 20 pupils is off school and self-isolating because of a Covid contact.
The number languishing at home because of the virus has rocketed by about 400 per cent in a fortnight.
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The vast majority — 279,000 — had to stay at home because someone in their class had Covid.
The figures pile pressure on ministers to rip up rules which force entire class bubbles to self isolate if just one child falls ill.
Pupils who come into contact with someone with Covid would instead be tested daily to declare them safe.
Mr Gibb said: “We are conducting trials of daily contact testing as a possible alternative to self-isolation.”
Teachers and MPs said the reforms were badly needed.
Oasis School Academy head Steve Chalke, who runs schools across the country, said: “This is good news if it means we can keep children who have had their lives and education turned upside-down by Covid in class.”
Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the education committee, said: “We have to do whatever it takes to keep kids in school.
“Perhaps even sending vans — like blood donor vans — outside schools to test pupils and teachers to stop sending pupils home.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The vast majority are in school but I am aware that, sadly, a minority are experiencing disruption.
“Whilst pupils who are self-isolating are being immediately provided with high-quality remote education, we know the best place for children is in the classroom.
“I’ll be looking closely at the issues around the need for ongoing isolation of bubbles and the outcomes of the daily contact testing trial, as we consider a new model.”
Boris catch-up help is ‘feeble’
Sir Kevan Collins demanded billions more to help them recover.
He told MPs: “Our country has responded in a way which is, frankly, a bit feeble.
“This scale of shock requires a massive national effort to recover.
“It is not a bit of tutoring in the corner, it is actually a fundamental approach the school needs to take.”
He quit this month when his plea for £15billion for pupils was rejected.