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Coronavirus: Schools

Question for Department for Education

UIN 102697, tabled on 12 January 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what additional steps he will take to tackle covid-19 infection spread in schools and prevent a return to pre-Christmas levels of infection in school age children.

Answered on

20 January 2022

COVID-19 continues to be a virus that we learn to live with, and it remains imperative that we reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education. My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, announced on 19 January 2022 that the temporary introduction of Plan B is to end. From 27 January, face coverings will no longer be advised for visitors, staff and secondary pupils in classrooms and communal areas. From this date, staff and pupils should follow wider advice on face coverings outside of school, including on transport to and from school.

There are a number of measures that will remain in place.

  • Testing remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 within schools and colleges. The department asked secondary schools to provide one on-site test for all pupils upon return.
  • Staff and secondary school pupils should continue to test twice weekly at home. Schools are strongly encouraged to ask parents and other visitors to take a lateral flow device (LFD) test before entering the school.
  • Young people aged 5 to 18 and fully vaccinated adults who are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 can take an NHS rapid lateral flow test every day for seven days and continue to attend their school or college as normal unless they have a positive test result.
  • Every child aged 12 and over is eligible to receive the vaccine. Healthy 12 to 15-year-olds can have a second dose 12 weeks after their first dose. All 16 and 17-year-olds have been offered the booster vaccination, which can be booked through the national booking system. The booster programme was accelerated to offer every adult in England a booster jab by the end of 2021.
  • Children aged 5 to 11, who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone (of any age) who is immunosuppressed, will be offered a primary course of vaccination.
  • Frequent and thorough hand cleaning should now be regular practice. Schools should continue to ensure that pupils clean their hands regularly. The ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach continues to be very important. Schools should maintain appropriate cleaning regimes.

To improve ventilation, the department has provided CO2 monitors backed by £25 million in government funding. Over 99% of eligible maintained schools, further education colleges, and the majority of nurseries have now received a carbon dioxide monitor with over 353,000 now delivered. The government is also now making available at least 8,000 funded air cleaning units for poorly ventilated teaching spaces where quick fixes to improve ventilation are not possible.

The contingency framework, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings, gives directors of public health a range of options for advising temporary measures in certain situations.

The department’s aim is for schools to deliver face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils in as normalised an educational environment as is possible.