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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Schools

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A summary of the latest evidence on coronavirus (COVID-19) in schools has been published.

The paper, from the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, looks at the risks posed by the virus to pupils and staff, and the benefits to children and young people of schools remaining open.

It shows:

the rate of coronavirus-related sickness among pupils is low across the country – at 12 November, this represented about 0.1% of all pupils

there is no direct evidence that transmission of the virus within schools plays a significant role in driving rates of infection among children

data found there is no difference between COVID-19 positivity rates in teachers and school staff relative to other worker groups of the same age

closing schools presents a serious risk of harm to the wellbeing of children and young people, particularly those who are vulnerable 

Deputy First Minister John Swinney (pictured) said:

“The data helps to demonstrate why it remains safe to keep our schools open wherever possible.

“The guidance we put in place on the health measures required to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in schools – and the extraordinary efforts by local authorities and staff to follow that guidance – means that schools have remained safe, open and welcoming.

“In our view, the evidence weighs clearly in favour of children attending schools in person when it is safe to do so.

“The risk of harm to the education and wellbeing of young people of closing schools outweighs any impact that schools have on transmission.

“I hope this paper will help to reassure parents, pupils and staff, especially those in areas with the highest levels of the virus, who are understandably concerned.

“I know staff will still be anxious – we will continue to listen to them and work with them to make sure they feel safe at work.”

Mr Swinney also welcomed the publication by Public Health Scotland of summary statistics on COVID-19 infections in school pupils from 17 August to 18 October. 

The figures show more than 75% of schools in Scotland did not have any pupils who tested positive for COVID-19 in the first term of the school year.

Rises in positive cases in the last three weeks of term coincided with an increase in community prevalence across all adult age groups.

Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the COVID-19 Sub-Group, said: 

“The overwhelming evidence from across the world is that children are safest in school and that school closures increase educational inequalities and have long-term detrimental outcomes for young people.

“Scotland’s success in providing primary and secondary children full-time, in-person learning from mid-August should be an example for other countries in the world deciding their schools policy.

“The key factor in keeping schools open and safe is to reduce community prevalence by ensuring appropriate public health measures and restrictions are put in place to reduce community transmission.”

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