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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 24 February with information about school openings.

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, from 22 February there is a phased return to schools, starting with the youngest pupils in primary schools. Some older pupils in key exam years are also back in school now part time. Other pupils will have only remote learning until at least 15 March. Vulnerable children and children of critical workers will still have face-to-face teaching in the meantime.

In Northern Ireland, primary and secondary schools will provide only remote learning until at least 5 March. Schools will be open for children of key workers and vulnerable children. 

In England, the government expects schools to open for all pupils from 8 March. Until then, only vulnerable children and children of critical workers will have face-to-face teaching.

In Wales, from 22 February there is a phased return to schools, starting with pupils aged 3 to 7 (foundation phase learners). This return might happen several days later in some areas with higher rates of the virus. Across Wales, schools and local councils should make arrangements so vulnerable children and children of critical workers can still attend school.

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?

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 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 information page on Wednesday 24 February

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