Students: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 24th September 2020.

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Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what research is being done on younger students spreading covid-19 into the wider community.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The Department regularly reviews advice from Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and Public Health England (PHE) to ensure our policies are guided by the most up to date scientific evidence.

Public Health England have published preliminary results of the COVID-19 testing and antibody prevalence surveillance in schools programme (sKIDs), available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/914700/sKIDs_Phase1Report_01sep2020.pdf.

The report concluded that there was no evidence of an increased risk of COVID-19 infection in students or staff attending school during the summer half term in England, with no secondary cases identified among household or school contacts.

The SAGE sub-group, the Children’s Task and Finish Working group, has provided advice that focusses specifically on the transmission of COVID-19 in children and within schools. This has included data from a meta-analysis looking at the susceptibility to and transmission of COVID-19 amongst children and adolescents, available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/903377/S0604_Annex_A_-_Update_on_susceptibility_and_transmission_of_SARS-CoV-2_by_children_and_adolescents.pdf.

SAGE have also considered principles for managing COVID-19 transmission associated with both schools and colleges.

The Rapid Response and the Rapid Rolling Calls, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are funding studies that aim to make a significant contribution to the understanding, prevention, and management of COVID-19. Two prominent examples include the Coronavirus STORY (Serum Testing of Representative Youngsters) project led by the University of Oxford and in collaboration with Public Health England will study the presence of antibodies against COVID-19 in children and teenagers 0 to 19 years old. The COVID-19 Mapping and Mitigation in Schools (CoMMinS) project led by Bristol University will, over a six-month period, test for infection in schools and test whether staff and pupils have current or past COVID-19 infection.

The UK Chief Medical Officers have also been clear that school attendance is very important for children and young people.

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