Attending schools 'no greater risk than being at home' for children and staff

5 September 2020, 08:42 | Updated: 5 September 2020, 08:43

Most pupils across the UK have now returned to school
Most pupils across the UK have now returned to school. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Attending school presents primary school children and staff with 'no greater risk' of contracting coronavirus than being at home, a new study suggests.

The study, which looked at 131 schools, used tests to find out who has already had the virus.

Results showed that there were similar levels of antibodies in pupils and teachers.

However, the study of 12,000 adults and children in England was carried out in June and early July, when there were very few cases around.

Pupils and staff were tested during the last six weeks of the summer term when Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children could return to school

More studies are expected to be conducted when all children are attending school.

Millions of children across the UK have now returned to the classroom with students in England and Wales heading back over the past few days.

Schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland reopened last month.

Schools now look very different to what students were once used to, with pupils placed in "bubble" groups, following one-way systems and socially distancing when necessary.

Staggered start times have also been introduced, and hand-washing stations and screens installed.

It comes as the majority of schools in England reported attendance rates above 80 per cent this week as pupils returned to the classroom, a poll has found.

Headteachers across the nation welcomed back students in all year groups for the start of the autumn term on Tuesday, with the remainder due to return next week.

A poll conducted by the school leaders union' NAHT suggested that more than nine in ten schools enjoyed attendance rates of above 80 per cent.

Meanwhile, four in five schools saw attendance rates climb above 90 per cent, according to the survey.

For those pupils not present, school leaders said their main reasons were that they were either quarantining following a trip abroad, were still away on holiday, or were suffering from a non-coronavirus-related illness.

Only one in five of those polled said they had a child in their school who had not attended due to their parents being too nervous to send them back.

Similarly, only 20 per cent of school leaders said they had a pupil who was absent because they were self-isolating following contact with someone infected with Covid-19.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was "encouraged" to see such a high number of children reuniting with their classmates after schools reopened this week.

"Once again, I'd like to thank staff for their hard work throughout the summer holidays getting all schools and colleges ready for a safe return," he said.

"More schools will continue to open to all pupils next week, following teacher training days and inductions for new year groups.

"It's vital that time is taken to fully settle into new routines and I am confident we have the right contingency plans to deal with any challenges."