COVID-19, MS and schools
We updated this page on Wednesday 16 September 2020
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.
We know that for some people, the return of schools will be a great relief. But if you’ve also got concerns or questions about any of this, you can get in touch with our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000.
When do schools re-open in my country?
In Scotland, schools opened on 11 August, with all pupils expected at school full-time from 18 August at the latest.
In Northern Ireland, the new school term began on 24 August for some year groups and for vulnerable children in all years. All other pupils returned full time at normal autumn term start dates, which vary between schools.
In England, schools are expected to open to all pupils, full-time, from the usual autumn term start in early September.
In Wales, schools opened on 1 September. Some schools might bring back pupils gradually rather than everyone attending straight away. But the government says it expects all pupils to be at school full-time from 14 September at the latest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can also sign up to our new Keep in Touch service, for a weekly catch up call with one of our friendly volunteers.
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 Wednesday 16 September 2020
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