Figures obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service show that 647 students were told to take the precautionary measure in the week to 23rd May, because of possible contact with Covid cases. That represents 3.95 percent of the school population in the borough.
The level is only fractionally below that reached in the district just prior to the start of the second national lockdown last November. Five Chorley schools saw pupils go into self-isolation over the latest period for which data is available - 613 across four secondary establishments and 34 in one primary school. Seven staff were also told to self-isolate.
The number of actual infections is much lower - but, at 24 students, is still the second-highest in the county. No staff in Chorley’s schools were confirmed to have been infected during the timeframe.
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The majority of Lancashire districts had fewer than 200 pupils told to self-isolate last week - including Preston (59), South Ribble (119), Ribble Valley (63) and Wyre (22).
A total of 1.39 percent of Lancashire’s 176,000 school pupils entered self-isolation in that seven-day period - marginally up from the 1.1 percent seen at the end of March.
Ian Watkinson, Lancashire’s representative on the executive committee of the National Education Union, praised public health bosses in the county for recently recommending that pupils continue to wear masks in classrooms and corridors, in spite of a change to national guidance on the issue.
However, he added that the rising isolation numbers in the county were of concern.
“The data is clear from over in Bolton - transmission [of the Indian variant of Covid] is far higher amongst primary and secondary pupils than it appears to have been with previous variants. And if you haven’t got safe schools then you haven’t got safe communities.
“Headteachers are doing everything they can and have got risk assessments and measures in place - but they can’t control the virus coming through the door.
“Given the heightened [transmission] of the new variant, we’d welcome education workers getting the opportunity to get vaccinated [as a priority],” Mr Watkinson said.
He also said that the education trades unions in Lancashire had been assured that Lancashire County Council’s public health leaders “wouldn’t hesitate to recommend remote learning and more mitigation measures if the situation merited it”.
“But the priority is that there is as little disruption to education as possible - and it’s about striking a balance between that and public health.”