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COVID-19, MS and schools

Find out how schools are adapting to coronavirus, and what the each government advises.

We updated this page on Monday 19 October with news about schools in Wales.

The UK, Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh governments each have guidance for schools to reduce the chances of catching coronavirus.

There could be local restrictions that affect going to school. If there’s different guidance for your city or county, your local council website should have details. Find your local council at gov.uk.

If you’ve got concerns or questions about any of this, you can get in touch with our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000.

Are schools open in my country?

In Scotland, schools are open to all pupils, full-time. 

In Northern Ireland, schools are open at the moment, but the half-term break will be extended to 2 weeks (schools will be shut from 19 to 30 October). 

In England, schools are open to all pupils, full-time.

In Wales, schools are open as usual until the half-term break. But for one week after half term, secondary schools will only open to years 7 and 8, and for pupils to take exams. Other pupils will have remote teaching for that week. Primary schools will open as usual straight after half term.

Is it safe for children with MS to be in school?

A group of leading neurologists in childhood MS have agreed that children with MS are not a high risk group for coronavirus. And that almost all children should return to school full time.
 
In a statement they say:

  • Nothing can be 100% safe. But their experience across the UK over the past 6 months hasn’t shown that their patients are at high risk - even when they've been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Children with MS rarely have other conditions as well as MS, or ongoing physical symptoms like problems with walking. These are two factors that could put people with MS at higher risk. 
  • The academic and social benefits of going to school and socialising outweigh the risk from the virus.
  • Unless a child’s neurologist suggests taking extra precautions, they should follow government guidance for all children at school.

Read the full statement about children with MS 

What if my child or I have been shielding?

Where shielding is paused, children in your household will need to go back to school - unless your doctor (or your child’s doctor) tells you otherwise.

Nation-wide shielding has been paused across the UK. Your local council will have details if there are any particular restrictions in your area.

If local restrictions advise your child to stay away from school, they should get remote support from the school straight away.  

Schools should explain the steps they’re taking to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus.

Read more about the pause in shielding

What if my child is self-isolating?

No one who’s self-isolating should go to school. Self-isolating pupils should get remote support from their school.

Read more about self-isolating if someone has COVID-19 symptoms

What precautions will schools take against coronavirus?

Your school should let all parents know what they’re doing to keep risks as low as possible. This could include:

  • having staggered break times, starts and finishes
  • changing the layout of classrooms so there is less physical contact where that’s possible
  • promoting strict hygiene, including hand washing and frequent cleaning of door handles, handrails, tabletops, play equipment and toys
  • using face coverings in some areas of the school and on school buses

The details will be different from school to school and they should explain the steps they’re taking.

Read the UK government guidance for schools reopening in England and the update to face coverings guidance

Read the Scottish government guidance for schools reopening and the update to face coverings guidance

Read the Northern Ireland Executive guidance for schools reopening and the update to face coverings guidance

Read the Welsh government guidance for schools reopening and the update to face coverings guidance

What if a child or member of staff has symptoms of coronavirus at school?

If anyone at school shows coronavirus-like symptoms, the school should follow the guidance each national government sets out to control the spread of the virus.

Your school, college or nursery should be able to give you full details of the measures they’ll take.

These should include:

  • looking after the child with symptoms in a separate space until they can be collected by their parent or carer
  • making sure they don’t attend school while they self-isolate
  • following national testing and tracing rules, which could mean children and teachers in that class self-isolate at home for 14 days, if the child with symptoms has a positive test result.

Schools should apply similar measures if a staff member shows symptoms.

Remember you're not alone

We're here for you. If you’re worried about your MS and coronavirus and want to chat to someone, call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm except bank holidays.

If you'd like to talk your worries through online with other people who know MS, visit our Online Community Forum today.

You can join one of our Time to Chat or Virtual Wellbeing sessions and connect online with other people living with MS across the UK. Or you could sign up for an information webinar. We've got plenty to choose from, take a look at our online sessions and see what suits you.

We updated this page on Monday 19 October 2020

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