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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
Staff safety and wellbeing

Staff safety and wellbeing


In general, studies have not revealed a higher occupational risk to educational staff from COVID-19 compared to the general population. Analysis of mortality statistics based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for England and Wales, found that the absolute mortality risk was low among those working in schools compared to many other occupations. The study reported that secondary school teachers had an estimated higher risk of death than the general working-age population, but did not take potential confounders such as existing comorbidities into account.

In a separate report, COVID-19 related deaths among teaching and education professionals were reported by the ONS to be statistically significantly lower than the rate of death among those of the same age and sex in the general population. Rates of COVID-19 related deaths among secondary education teaching professionals were not statistically significantly different from those of the same age and sex in the wider population. The rate of COVID-19 related deaths among male secondary school teachers was statistically significantly higher than the rate of COVID-19 related deaths in men of the same age in professional occupations.  However, in Scotland, after the schools re-opened in August 2020, the risk of hospitalisation among teachers and their household members was found to be broadly like the general working age population. The relative risk of severe COVID-19 was lower.

It is estimated that around 85% of the school workforce will have received both doses of the vaccine by mid-August. The vast majority of those who will only have received one dose by the start of the school year will be under 40 and are likely to have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, which achieve relatively high levels of protection even after a single dose . Early estimates of effectiveness of a single dose indicate a vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease of around 60% after one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and around 70% (95% CI: 46 to 86%) after one dose of the Moderna vaccine. Due to recent activity to accelerate vaccine take-up we believe that very close to all staff will have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated (with 14 days elapsed to provide increased protection) by 26 September, around six weeks into the new academic year for the majority of local authority areas.  This timeline of near-complete vaccination of over 18 year olds by late September also indicates widespread protection of adults in other education and learning settings, including universities and colleges, training providers etc.