What will Covid measures be for pupils returning to school?

School Covid test

Secondary school and colleges students are being tested twice on site ahead of the new term. - Credit: PA

Children starting the new school year will be faced with fewer coronavirus restrictions but new measures have been put in place to deal with outbreaks. 

The Department for Education has updated its “contingency framework” for schools and colleges saying for most "it will make sense to think about taking extra action if the number of positive cases substantially increases".

Existing rules for the return to school include students in secondary schools and colleges being tested twice on site. The tests should be between three and five days apart.

Thereafter, staff and students in secondary schools and colleges, and staff in primary schools, should test themselves twice a week at home until the end of September, when this will be reviewed.

Under-18s will not need to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a positive case. They will be strongly advised to take a PCR test and, if positive, then will need to isolate.

Pupils in school

Schools have been issued with new guidance on how to deal with Covid outbreaks. - Credit: PA


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The new DfE  framework suggests schools use ‘thresholds’ as an indication for when to seek public health advice.

It suggests thresholds could be clusters of five children, pupils, students or staff “who are likely to have mixed closely” who test positive for Covid-19 within a 10-day period, or if 10pc of children, pupils, students or staff test positive within 10 days of each other.

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In smaller groups, such as special needs schools, with fewer than 20 pupils attending, the threshold could be two people with confirmed infections within 10 days of each other.

Joshua Lee disinfects tables at Queen's Hill Primary School in Costessey

Schools that see outbreaks are advised to undertake enhanced cleaning, focusing on touch points and any shared equipment. - Credit: PA

‘Extra measures’

If positive cases mean the thresholds have been reached, schools "should review and reinforce the testing, hygiene and ventilation measures they already have in place", according to the guidance. They should also consider:

  • Whether any activities could take place outdoors, including exercise, assemblies or classes. 
  • Ways to improve ventilation indoors where this would not significantly impact thermal comfort.
  • One-off enhanced cleaning, focusing on touch points and any shared equipment.

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