NEW guidance will be issued to schools in the North of Ireland by the Department of Education on when pupils have to self-isolate if one of their classmates has COVID-19.
The change comes only a day after the department issued updated guidance to schools.
On Thursday, the department said class bubbles should be sent home if one pupil in the class had symptoms of the virus, such as a persistent cough.
However, the department has now said that it will issue new guidance around this.
It advised that “only when a positive case has been identified in a child or young person do schools need to consider self-isolating close contacts of that individual”.
Among the new measures issued in the updated guidance on Thursday was a recommendation that face visors should not be routinely used in school instead of face coverings or masks.
But the updated guidance also said that if a pupil showed symptoms of Coronavirus school, other children in their class should be sent home while the symptomatic pupil waited for a test.
“All members of the bubble should follow the same advice as the symptomatic child’s household and begin to self-isolate for 14 days pending the result of the test,” the guidance issued on Thursday said.
“Schools therefore need to make every effort to maximise segmentation within classrooms.”
It was a change from previous DE guidance issued to schools before term started, which said that a class would be advised to self-isolate only in the case of a pupil or staff member testing positive for COVID-19.
Some principals warned that the change would lead to large numbers of children being sent home from school.
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Education (DE) said the guidance would subsequently change again.
“An issue was brought to our attention in relation to a section of the revised New School Day guidance,” they said.
“We have worked with the Public Health Agency (PHA) to rectify the issue and revised guidance will be issued on Monday.”The spokesperson added that they “recognise the importance of the guidance for education settings and have taken action to resolve this issue as quickly as possible”.
“In response to feedback from schools, and following clarification with the Public Health Agency, we can now advise that only when a positive case has been identified in a child or young person do schools need to consider self-isolating close contacts of that individual.”
On Wednesday, Holy Cross College in Strabane had to close for the day after a COVID-19 case was confirmed.
Pupils at the school were taught remotely on Thursday while additional cleaning was being carried out in the school.
Most the college’s 1,600 pupils returned on Friday.