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Back to school: coronavirus rules, measures and restrictions in schools

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With pupils having made their return to school this month, and many coronavirus restrictions now lifted, we understand that both parents and pupils will have questions about what to expect. In this article, we look at the rules around wearing masks, self-isolating and testing in relation to school pupils.

Will children need to self-isolate if they are in contact with a pupil who has tested positive?

As of 16th August, children aged under 18 are no longer be required to self-isolate if they have come into close contact with a person who has tested positive. They will need to take a PCR test, but if this test is negative, they will not be required to take any further tests or to self-isolate.

Will pupils have to take covid tests to attend school?

At the start of the autumn term 2021, schools will be asked to provide and offer pupils two lateral flow tests. Pupils in secondary schools in England, will be asked to carry out two lateral flow tests per week. Families are also asked to carry out these lateral flow tests. However, lateral flow testing for school is voluntary and children will not be prevented from attending school where they do not carry out this testing.

What practical changes will there be to coronavirus restrictions in schools?

The way children attend school has been subject to constant change and adaptation over the last 18 months. However, the previous system of "bubbles" - where pupils only mixed within a fixed group - has come to an end. Schools are also no longer required to have staggered start and finish times. Some schools have chosen to keep these measures in place, but there is no legal requirement, and this could be reviewed at any time.

Will pupils need to wear face masks to school?

In England, face coverings are no longer required in schools, but some schools have asked pupils to continue to wear them. Similarly, social distancing is no longer necessary. However, face coverings are still a requirement on public transport in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and so you must be mindful of how your child will travel to and from school.

In Scotland, masks are still compulsory in secondary schools including in classrooms.

In Wales, face coverings must be worn by secondary school students and staff everywhere that social distancing cannot be maintained - including the classroom.

Test and Trace and schools, nurseries and colleges

NHS Test and Trace is responsible for contact tracing for schools, nurseries and colleges. Where a child tests positive for COVID-19, they will be contacted by Test and Trace and told that they must self-isolate. Parents (or the child if they are old enough) will be asked to provide details about their close contacts which may be in school or elsewhere. They should provide contact details of close contacts if known.

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