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More than a thousand pupils sent home from Greater Manchester schools to self-isolate

Just days after they reopened…

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A matter of days after schools welcomed back pupils, 15 schools in Greater Manchester have had to tell students to stay home and quarantine for 14 days. 

Students are put into bubbles as part of the new safety measures, which means that any children within the bubbles need to isolate too.

Bubbles in primary schools where classes are around 30 are a lot smaller than those in high schools, where whole years were set up as bubbles, affecting as many as 200 children, the Manchester Evening News reports.

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The worst affected school is Co-op Academy in Swinton, with positive cases in both Year 7 and Year 10, meaning both year groups were sent home on Monday.

Initially this meant siblings also had to remain off, but parents have since been told otherwise. But if the child who is isolating gains symptoms, other members of the household should face the same restrictions. 

However, this has worried parents who are dependent on children going back to school so they can return to work. Many are now concerned children will be in and out of school throughout the year.

A parent of a child at the school in Swinton has said her child would be better off at home.

She told the MEN: “What’s the rules if we just want to keep our children off for the foreseeable? This is just going to continue and they’re going to just keep getting sent home.

“Day three and it’s happened. It’s going to be a weekly occurrence. I am not putting my child at risk, she has severe asthma. So I don’t want her going back.”

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Newall Green Primary School in Wythenshawe had a confirmed positive case on Monday morning and told year 1 and 2 to stay at home.

They have since reduced this to one class in year 1. 

Executive headteacher Sarah Rudd said: “We were alerted first thing this morning before school started to a confirmed case within the school. We took the decision in the interests of keeping all children and staff safe to err on the side of caution and ask two year groups to remain at home today, pending further advice from health officials. No other year groups were affected.

“Since then we’ve had detailed discussions with health colleagues who have advised that just one class of pupils and teachers will need to isolate and stay away from school for the next 14 days, whilst the rest of the classes in the two year groups and their teachers can return to school tomorrow.

“School already has all the required safety measures in place, however as an extra precaution all the classrooms in the two affected year groups are also in the process of being deep cleaned in preparation for pupils’ return.”

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The whole of year seven is remaining off until September 18th at Buile Hill Academy in Salford, due to a positive case.

The MEN has confirmed that more than a dozen schools throughout Greater Manchester are in the same situation. 

They added the below list confirming the schools where pupils are self-isolating:

  • Buile Hill Academy, Salford – (Year 7)
  • Co-op Academy Swinton – (Year 7 and Year 10)
  • Dean Trust Wigan – (Year 8)
  • Manchester High School for Girls – (Year 5 Prep)
  • Newall Green Primary School, Wythenshawe – (One class in Year 1)
  • Yew Tree Community School, Chadderton – (Class 4 Red)
  • Middleton Parish Church School
  • Bowlee Park Community School, Middleton – (Year 1 Class 3 and Year 1 Class 4)
  • St Stephen’s RC Primary School, Droylsden – (Confirmed case in Key Stage 2)
  • St Anne’s Primary School, Denton – (One class in Year 5)
  • Old Hall Drive Academy, Gorton – (Year 6)
  • Old Moat Primary School, Withington – (Year 6)
  • Gorse Hill Primary School, Stretford – (Year 1)
  • Brooklands Primary School, Sale
  • Seymour Park Community Primary, Old Trafford

Schools have confirmed they are following the guidance set out by Public Health England and Department for Education inspite of the frustration felt by parents. 

Greater Manchester’s national executive member for the teachers’ union NASUWT, Jac Casson, explains that the number of pupils in isolation is no surprise. 

She added: “Sadly, as the infection rate appears to be growing in many areas of Greater Manchester, it is likely that this will happen in more than the handful of schools already affected only days into the new school term.

“We know that leadership teams, teachers and other staff are working hard to provide a safe learning environment for pupils and they will, understandably, feel concerned about these confirmed cases of Covid-19 in schools across Greater Manchester and the country as a whole.

“The NASUWT is supportive of, and committed to, the aim of pupils being in school and having the benefit of being taught by their teachers. However, it is essential that everything that needs to be done is done, to ensure the safety of staff and pupils and to protect the health of the local community.”

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Wigan Council’s director for public health said: “The return to schools will inevitably see a rise in cases across the country, but it is important to note that all the relevant and necessary safety measures are in place and being followed strictly.

“We are supporting the school with advice and guidance at this time. The school remains open and it is not necessary for any other child to self-isolate, stay away from school or to be tested, unless they develop symptoms of Covid-19.”

A spokesperson for Trafford Council added: “Our Public Health Team is working closely with three Trafford primary schools where a small number of pupils have tested positive for Covid 19. The schools involved are Seymour Park Primary, Brooklands Primary and Gorse Hill Primary.

“The schools have informed all parents and the children and staff in the affected classes have been asked to self-isolate for two weeks in line with government guidance.

“The schools in question will remain open to other pupils during this time and the affected areas will be deep cleaned. The health and safety of pupils and staff at all our schools remains our number one priority and our Public Health Team will continue to work closely with school leaders to provide them with the necessary support.”

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People on working tax credits will get a £500 one-off payment, Rishi Sunak confirms

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Brits on tax credits get a one-off benefits payment of £500, Rishi Sunak reveals in budget. 

Outlined in the budget, Sunak explained that a £20 weekly increase in universal credit will extend for a further six months.

The chancellor explains that by the way Working Tax Credits system works people will not be able to receive the extra £20 weekly. 

Instead, people will benefit from a £500 one-off payment.

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Mr Sunak said: “To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown

“We’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months.

“Because of the way that system works operationally, we’ll need to do so with a one-off payment of £500.”

The £500 tax credit boost will run in the same way that the Universal Credit is paid – automatically. 

Lots of people have switched from the old ‘Tax Credit’ to the new ‘Universal Credit’ system. Anyone who hasn’t yet been transferred across will now be eligible for this new one-off payment. 

The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, reaching 6 million people at the start of this year. 

The extra benefit support is welcomed but many are raising concerns that six months is not long enough.

Sunak also revealed in today’s budget that furlough will be extended until September but employers will have to pay 10% of the employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September. 

You can see a round-up of all the key points from the budget here

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What Rishi Sunak’s new budget means for people in Greater Manchester

Everything you need to know

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Rishi Sunak has said he wants to be honest about the government’s plans for fixing the public finances.

The chancellor says there has been ‘acute damage’ to the economy, with more than 700,000 people losing jobs and the economy shrinking by 10% – the largest fall in 300 years.

Borrowing has also been as high as during wartime.

He said: “It’s going to take this country, and the whole world, a long time to recover from this extraordinary situation.”

Here are the key points from his 2021 budget announcement….

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Furlough

  • Sunak explains that 1.8 million fewer people are expected to be out of work than previously thought, with the peak at 6.5% down from the forecasted peak of 11.9%.
  • Furlough is set to be extended until the end of September this year, however, firms will be asked to contribute 10% of employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September as the scheme is gradually phased out.
  • A fourth grant worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500 covering February to April that will help self-employed people.
  • The £20 increase in universal credit will extend for six months

Business Support

  • Total cash support to businesses has reached £25bn. A further £5bn restart grant has now been confirmed to help companies get going after lockdown.
  • Hospitality and leisure businesses will pay no business rates for three months, then discounted for the remaining nine months of the year by two-thirds.
  • The 5% VAT cut will be extended to the end of September and gradually increased at 12.5% for six months before returning to the normal rate in April 2022.

David Dixon/Geograph

Housing

  • The stamp duty holiday will be extended on properties up to £500,000 to the end of June. It will return to normal levels from October 1st.
  • Mortgage guarantees were also confirmed to help first-time buyers access 95% mortgages, with just 5% deposits.

Public Finances

  • The government will take a ‘fair’ approach to ‘fixing the public finances’ the chancellor confirms.
  • There will be no increase in national insurance, income tax or VAT.
  • The personal allowance will remain at £12,750 until 2026 and the higher rate will increase to £50,270 next year.
  • Inheritance tax threshold, pensions lifetime allowance, annual exempt allowance from capital gains tax and VAT exemption thresholds will all be frozen.
  • New minimum wage rates come into force in England on April 1st. Basic rate workers will see a 2.2% increase, with the National Living Wage rising to £8.91 an hour.

David Dixon/Geograph

Borrowing

  • The budget deficit will reach £355billion this year (17% of GDP) – the highest level in peacetime.
  • Sunak said: “It’s going to be the work of many governments over many decades to pay it back, just as it would be irresponsible to withdraw support too soon, it would also be irresponsible to allow our future borrowing and debt to rise unchecked.”

Growth

  • The chancellor explains that the economy will recover more quickly than previously thought.
  • GDP will grow by 4% this year and 7.3% next year according to official forecasts.

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Contactless payment limit set to increase to £100

It’s hoped this will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector

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Rishi Sunak is set to announce in the budget today an increase in contactless payment limit up to £100.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the contactless limit was increased from £30 to £45 and it is hoped this second increase will provide a much-needed boost to the retail sector.

Some industry sources have expressed alarm at the new threshold, warning of the potential increase in fraud, according to Sky News.

The increase in the limit was made possible due to Brexit. The European Commission set the limit to €50.

Number 10/Flickr

Sunak is expected to highlight the important of ‘pinging’ payments as shoppers continue to rely less on cash. 

Speaking to the Evening Standard, he said: “London’s retail sector is famous across the world, with Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Westfield seen as global destinations for shopping.

“As we begin to open the UK economy and people return to the high street, the contactless limit increase will make it easier than ever before for people to pay for their shopping, providing a welcome boost to retail that will protect jobs and drive growth across the capital.”

The chancellor is set to unveil the budget at 12:30pm today. He is expected to offer more information on the mortgage scheme that will offer 5% deposit as well as extending the stamp duty holiday and increase corporation tax from 19% to 23%.

Sunak is also set to announce the extension of furlough until September and information on a £5bn scheme to help firms such as shops, clubs and gyms.

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