Coronavirus transmission in schools: your questions answered (2024)

Coronavirus transmission in schools: your questions answered (1)

As schools return for the autumn term and welcome back pupils, we understand that this may raise some concern about the risks of transmission of coronavirus. Below we answer some key questions.

What symptoms should schools be looking out for? How can schools tell if a pupil has just a cold, or whether it might be coronavirus?

The Department for Education has worked closely with Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Test and Trace to ensure that we are doing all we can to minimise the potential risks of spread. A key part of this is recognising the correct symptoms.

We ask that schools recommend to their pupils and staff who feel unwell, that they get tested if:

  1. They develop one or more of the main coronavirus symptoms: a high temperature; a new, continuous cough; or the loss or change of their sense of taste or smell; or
  2. They are recommended to get tested by a healthcare provider (e.g. GP or nurse).

If a child is tested because they are unwell, they should stay off school until they receive a result. As in any year, as schools go back, children may pick up common colds or feel unwell with a sore throat, stomach upset or a headache. These children may need to stay off school and parents/carers should call their GP or dial 111 to seek medical advice if they are concerned about their child’s health.

A pupil has coronavirus symptoms – what happens next?

As set out by the Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, coronavirus is rarely serious in children. If a child (or staff member) develops one or more of the main coronavirus symptoms described above, they should be tested and stay off school until they have a result. Schools should ask parents and staff to inform them immediately of the results of a test and follow this guidance.

Crucial to our overall support for schools is ensuring that everyone with coronavirus symptoms has access to a test as soon as they develop those symptoms. We have made testing available throughout the country and anyone with symptoms can book a test online or over the telephone through 119 to get the certainty they need to protect themselves and those around them.

Strict hygiene and cleaning protocols are in place in schools and PPE is being distributed to every school to bolster their supplies for use in the event that a pupil develops coronavirus symptoms. More guidance about preventing and controlling infection, including when, how PPE should be used, what type of PPE to use, and how to source it is available here.

A small number of home test kits are also being distributed to all schools for anyone who develops symptoms and is not easily able to get tested.

A positive case has been confirmed. What happens next – who has to go home and isolate?

If a positive case is confirmed, swift action will be taken to ask those who have been in close contact with them to self-isolate.

There is a new dedicated advice service to support schools, colleges and early years if they have a confirmed case. This dedicated helpline has been set up by Public Health England, the Department for Education and NHS Business Services Authority.

A team of advisors will inform education settings what action is needed in response to a positive case based on the latest public health advice, and work through a risk assessment. Usually, full closure will not be necessary, but some individuals may need to self-isolate if they have had close contact with the confirmed case. Close contact means:

  • direct close contacts - face to face contact with an infected individual for any length of time, within 1 metre, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, or unprotected physical contact (skin-to-skin)
  • proximity contacts - extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with an infected individual
  • travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with an infected person

The new dedicated advice service replaces the requirement for schools to contact the local health protection team to seek advice on a positive case. This new process will free up capacity of the PHE’s local health protection teams to deal with more complex cases, for example special schools and boarding schools, or outbreaks where there is more than one confirmed case. Advisors will be responsible for escalating these cases as necessary following a triaging of the circ*mstances in the school.

Schools will have better access to support in a timely manner where it is needed to ensure the right proportionate action is taken in asking close contacts of confirmed cases to self-isolate, while the remainder of the school can continue with minimum disruption. More information on when and how to contact the helpline can be found here.

In the case of a local community outbreak, what should schools do?

If a local area sees a spike in infection rates from localised community spread, appropriate authorities will decide which measures to implement to help contain the spread. The Department for Education will be involved in decisions at a local and national level affecting a geographical area, and will support appropriate authorities and individual settings to follow the health advice.

In the event of a local community outbreak, all possible measures should be taken before any restrictions are imposed on schools to maintain consistent education for children and young people. The updatedCONTAINguidance sets out four tiers of restrictions for education settings, for use as an absolute last resort in areas subject to local restrictions. All current areas of local restrictions are at Tier 1 – fully open to all pupils full time, with face coverings required in corridors and communal areas for pupils in Year 7 and above. If all other measures have been exhausted, Tier 2 would advise secondary schools and colleges in a restricted area to use rotas to help break chains of transmission of coronavirus, while primary schools remain open to all pupils. Tiers 3 and 4 introduce remote learning full time for wider groups of pupils, with vulnerable children and children of critical workers continuing to attend.

For more information about contingency planning and the process for local outbreaks, please see our guidance here.

We expect schools to have the capacity to offer immediate remote education where a class, group or small number of pupils need to self-isolate, or there is a local lockdown requiring pupils to remain at home. Schools are expected to consider how to continue to improve the quality of their existing offer and have a strong contingency plan in place for remote education provision by the end of September.

For disadvantaged children whose education is disrupted this term, the Department is providing an initial 150,000 laptops and tablets for schools, trusts and local authorities, who will be best placed to pass these on to children who need them. The Oak National Academy is also providing free, high-quality video lessons and resources throughout 2020/21.

More information about remote education provision, and what to do in the event of a local outbreak, is available here.

Coronavirus transmission in schools: your questions answered (2024)


How has COVID affected students' education? ›

And 16 million students missed more than 10% of school days during the 2021-22 school year, twice as many as in previous years. More than eight in 10 public schools reported “stunted behavioral and social-emotional development” in students because of the pandemic, researchers note.

How did quarantine affect students? ›

The COVID-19 pandemic forced school closures and resulted in students experiencing extended periods of social isolation. The profound and long-term effects and mental health risks of social isolation include anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

How long do you remain infectious with COVID? ›

You can pass on the infection to others, even if you have no symptoms. Most people with COVID-19 will no longer be infectious to others after 5 days. If you have a positive COVID-19 test result, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days after the day you took your test.

When am I most contagious with COVID? ›

COVID-19 is thought to be most contagious through day 5. This peak in infectiousness is largely due to viral shedding (when the virus in your body is released into the environment). The highest levels of viral shedding occur during and after symptom onset of congestion, fatigue, cough or a sore throat.

How did COVID affect students' mental health? ›

In a survey by Best Colleges, it was found that over 90% of students had negative mental health as a result of the pandemic and the three most common of them (negative mental health effects) were social isolation, lack of focus and anxiety, among many others (Population Fund of India, 2020).

How did the pandemic affect teachers? ›

Nearly three-quarters said that the 2021-22 school year was one of the worst in their careers. Another survey from 2021 found that teachers had experienced higher levels of job-related stress than most other workers. Some teachers say they're struggling with more student misbehavior and classroom disruptions.

How were people affected by quarantine? ›

Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma.

Why are students behind in school? ›

Children fall behind academically for a variety of reasons – from having a learning disorder to mental health challenge or lack of resources and support. External factors like the pandemic delays and learning from home can also have far-reaching implications on student learning.

How to prevent isolation in school? ›

Build an inclusive learning community.

The key to building inclusive classrooms is human connection. Whether these connections are between colleagues, teachers and students, or students and peers, it is important to create spaces and opportunities that nurture the desire to connect.

What helps COVID go away? ›

Many people with COVID-19 get better with rest, fluids and treatment for their symptoms. Medicine you can get without a prescription can help. Some examples are: Fever reducers.

How long does COVID immunity last? ›

The immune response from a COVID-19 infection usually tamps down after 3-4 months, says Kawsar Talaat, MD, a vaccinologist and associate professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

How long does COVID last if vaccinated? ›

For example, says Mallory Shillinger, D.O., a Piedmont primary care physician, vaccinated people often have “a fever for one or two days, along with fatigue, a sore throat and dry cough that can last three to five days. Also, a loss of taste and smell that can linger for two to three weeks.”

What does the very beginning of COVID feel like? ›

Fever or chills. Cough. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Fatigue.

How soon after exposure to COVID should you test? ›

If you have symptoms, test right away. Wait five days to test after exposure if you do not have symptoms. If you have symptoms but test negative, you should test again after 48 hours.

When should I test again after testing positive for COVID-19? ›

If your antigen test (such as an at-home test) result is positive, you may still be infectious. Continue wearing a mask and wait at least one day before taking another test.

Are students falling behind? ›

The National Center for Education Statistics has been consistently tracking student progress. While about 36% of students were an academic year behind their peers before the pandemic, that percentage has risen to almost 50%.

What is learning loss in education? ›

According to The Glossary of Education Reform, “learning loss refers to any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills” caused by “extended gaps or discontinuities in a student's education.” Learning gaps can be caused by illness, inclement weather, natural disasters, midyear teacher turnover, or summer break.

When did online learning start during COVID? ›

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit suddenly in March 2020, most schools in the United States pivoted to remote learning. In a matter of days, teachers and students who had little or no experience with distance learning were forced into remote learning while navigating the emerging pandemic's chaotic unknowns.

What are the effects of the pandemic? ›

From school closures to devastated industries and millions of jobs lost – the social and economic costs of the pandemic are many and varied. Covid-19 is threatening to widen inequalities everywhere, undermine progress on global poverty and clean energy, and more.

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