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COVID-19, MS and schools

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

We updated this information page on Wednesday 21 July with information about changes in the guidance for schools.

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.

What's changing with the COVID-19 guidance for schools?

In all 4 UK nations, COVID-19 guidance and rules for schools have either changed already, or are likely to soon. In all cases, schools still need to do risk assessments to help control the risks of coronavirus. 

In England, COVID-19 guidance for schools has changed and includes: 

  • Schools no longer need to keep pupils in the same groups all the time (‘bubbles’), though schools might want to carry on until the end of the summer term.
  • From 16 August 2021, under-18s won’t have to self-isolate if they’re a close contact of someone with COVID-19. They’ll only need to self-isolate if they test positive with a PCR, which NHS Test and Trace will ask them to take. So that people have time to get fully vaccinated, this rule will also apply for 4 months after someone’s 18th birthday.
  • Face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors either in classrooms or in communal areas. But they are still recommended in crowded spaces where you might be close to people you don’t normally meet – and that includes public transport and school buses.
  • All secondary school pupils should have 2 lateral flow COVID-19 tests when they return to school in the autumn. Staff and pupils should test twice a week until at least the end of September. If tests are positive, they’ll need to isolate and take a PCR test. If they get the PCR test within 2 days, and it’s negative, they can go back to school straight away.  

In Scotland, schools are closed for the summer holidays until 19 August. The Scottish government will soon make its plans known for what will happen after that date. They’re looking at whether people will still need to wear face masks in secondary schools and elsewhere from 9 August.

In Wales, secondary school pupils will no longer have to wear face masks in classrooms from September. At the moment, masks are recommended where staff and pupils can’t keep up social distancing.

In Northern Ireland, schools are closed for the summer holidays until September. Some COVID-19 measures are due to be relaxed on 26 July. Those will be confirmed after a review on 22 July.

Read more about COVID-19 precautions schools are taking and the government advice they have 

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

In September 2020, a group of leading neurologists in childhood MS agreed that children with MS are not a high risk group for coronavirus. And that almost all children should return to school full time when they're open.

In a statement they said:

  • 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 your 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 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?

Government guidance and rules for schools varies across the UK nations. And the details will be different from school to school.

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 in England 

Read the Scottish government guidance for schools

Read the Northern Ireland Executive guidance for schools 

Read the Welsh government guidance for schools

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 could 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, if the child with symptoms has a positive test result.

Schools could 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 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.

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