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Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues - return to school in August 2021

Published: 4 Aug 2021

Advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues on the return to school in August 2021.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues - return to school in August 2021
Key messages

Key Messages

  • children and young people as a group have relatively low risk of direct COVID-19 harm, but relatively high risk of wider – and long-term – social, educational, economic and wellbeing harms.  Some of these will be difficult to reverse
  • to balance ongoing COVID-19 mitigations in schools and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings with other harms, for example to children and young people’s education and wellbeing, mitigations should remain in place for no longer than is necessary given the state of the epidemic and evidence about risk. There should be a presumption against placing a greater restriction on children and young people than on the rest of society as the vaccination programme progresses
  • the sub-group strongly advises a precautionary, staged approach to the removal of mitigations in order to monitor the impacts of each phase, and to allow the system the flexibility to respond to data and developments
  • self-isolation of children and young people as close contacts of cases is primarily to reduce transmission to other age-groups who are more likely to experience adverse health effects from the virus. Repeated instances of isolation of children and young people disrupts their education, learning and development. This is in addition to the disruption caused by previous lockdowns.  The majority of children isolating as contacts do not develop COVID and are of low transmission risk
  • the sub-group considers that the current position on self-isolation for children and young people as contacts of cases is not commensurate with the risk going forward and should be revised to exempt all children and young people from isolation as close contacts unless they are symptomatic or have a positive test
  • the sub-group identified three options for the timing of this staged approach.  Based on the relative balance of COVID related health risks with the wider health and educational harms, equalities and human rights considerations, and deliverability constraints the sub-group recommends the removal of the requirement for self-isolation of close contacts for all children and young people aged 0-17 when the schools return from the week beginning 9 August, aligning with the anticipated move beyond Level 0 for wider society
  • to allow time for all adults to have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and to monitor the impacts of the updated policy on self-isolation in children and young people, the vast majority of other mitigations that are currently in place in schools and ELC and including school aged childcare should remain in place at the start of term and for a period up to six weeks (subject to review)
  • in order to ensure that schools re-open safely, staff in all education and local authority ELC settings, and secondary pupils should be asked to undertake a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) home test no more than two days before they return to school in August.  Anyone who tests positive should not return to school, and should seek a confirmatory PCR test. 
  • asymptomatic LFD testing for children and young people in secondary schools and for school and ELC staff should continue for a period after the start of term, but consideration should be given to adjusting the approach thereafter so that tests are only required where indicated by community prevalence and based on the advice of the local Director of Public Health/Incident Management Team
  • when a COVID-positive case is identified, school-aged close contacts should be advised to book a PCR test as soon as possible, and only end self-isolation and return to school if/when they receive a negative PCR test result

PDF version

A PDF version of this document is available under 'supporting documents'.