MORE than 1,600 pupils and staff in Worcestershire are currently out of school because of Covid, the latest figures show.

A total of 1,632 staff and pupils are currently self-isolating due to 43 positive coronavirus cases at 25 of Worcestershire’s schools.

The news comes as government ministers reveal plans to put a stop to pupils and staff automatically isolating after coming into contact with a positive Covid case when schools return in September.

The Department for Education said ministers have written to secondary schools asking them to prepare to potentially replace isolation rules with testing.

A spokesman said: “We are provisionally asking secondary schools and colleges to prepare to offer on-site testing when students return for the new academic year, so that schools are ready in case it is needed to keep as many children as possible in face-to-face education.

“We will provide further details about the approach to protective measures and test and trace in education from September in due course.”

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the Government is carrying out a review into using testing to end self-isolation for school pupils in bubbles.

“We are conducting trials of daily contact testing as a possible alternative to self-isolation,” he said on Tuesday, adding that a decision will be taken before July 19.

“What matters also is that we keep the school safe and, if you go around our schools, you will see a raft of measures to reduce the infection rates within schools.

“There’s extra hygiene, there’s staggered breaks, we keep children in bubbles, and there’s extra ventilation in classrooms to minimise the risk of transmission.”

He said that about three per cent of students are currently self-isolating but added that this figure is lower than it was in the autumn.

England's Children's Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said there was an urgent need for children to return to normal as lockdown restrictions had been a "real trauma" for young people.

Grouping pupils into bubbles - often made up of their year group or form which has to quarantine when one child tests positive for Covid - should end as soon as possible, she said.

She added that the need for children to go in and out of isolation was "a really big issue" and was proving "incredibly frustrating" for pupils and teachers alike.

"With bubbles, I think everybody would like it if we could get back to normal, as soon as possible. Obviously we have to be safe, and we have to take advice, but it's very very restrictive," she added.

On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he has asked for “fresh advice” on the issue, adding that the policy is “having a huge knock-on impact” on children’s education.

“I will hopefully be able to say more on this as soon as possible,” he said.