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I have MS, should I let my kids go back to school?

Whether you have MS or not, it’s your choice if you want to send your child back to school.

If you’re a ‘critical or key worker’, you’ll already have had to think this through.

But the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments now have dates they plan to open schools to many more children. All three governments say these changes depend on practical and safety measures being in place on time.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about coronavirus. So whatever you decide means weighing up possible risks and benefits. If you’d like to talk through your options, call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000.

What’s happening where?

In England, key workers are being encouraged to take up the offer of places if they haven’t already. And from Monday 1 June particular year groups have been encouraged to return. The plan is for this to be extended to more years in the coming weeks.

In Scotland, some children might be offered some time in school in late June. And the plan is to start the autumn term for other pupils on 11 August. Pupils would be at school part time, with other lessons designed to be done at home.

The Welsh government has proposed that all schools start teaching more children at school from 29 June, with the summer term extended for a week. They expect that no more than a third of pupils will be at school at the same time, with much smaller class sizes.

The Northern Ireland Education Minister has said it’s extremely likely there’ll be a phased, part-time return starting in September. The details haven’t been set out yet.

What if my child is self-isolating or shielding?

No one who’s self-isolating should go to school, nursery or college.

Read more about self-isolating or shielding

What if someone we live with is shielding?

If someone in your household is shielding, the UK government says children living there should only go in if they can stick to stringent social distancing instructions.

We expect more guidance from the Scottish government in the coming weeks. At the moment, they point people to the NHS Inform guidance for people who are shielding and government advice for schools on physical distancing.

The Welsh government says they’ll publish guidance for schools in the week starting Monday 8 June. We’ll link to that as soon as we have it.

What if my child or someone they live with is clinically vulnerable?

If your child is ‘clinically vulnerable (but not ‘extremely vulnerable’) the UK government says people in England should follow medical advice about attending or not.

If someone in your household is ‘clinically vulnerable (but not ‘extremely vulnerable’) the UK government says children who live there too can go to school. This applies in England. Everyone with MS is technically in the "clinically vulnerable" group, and your own risk will depend on your symptoms, treatment and other factors.

We expect more guidance from the Scottish government in the coming weeks. At the moment, they point people to the NHS Inform guidance for people who are shielding and government advice for schools on physical distancing.

The Welsh government says they’ll publish guidance for schools in the week starting Monday 8 June. We’ll link to that as soon as we have it.

If you’re unsure after reading our information, you could discuss it with your MS team who’ll know about your personal circumstances. If they tell you to take precautions it's very important you follow their advice. You can also speak to someone at your child’s school, nursery or college to talk through their plans.

Do I need to tell anyone if my child is not going in?

If your child doesn’t attend, let the nursery, school or college know. You won’t be fined if you keep your children off school during lockdown.

Find guidance for supporting your children’s education during lockdown on the UK government website

Find specific Scotland guidance for supporting your children’s education during lockdown on the Parentzone website

Find specific Northern Ireland guidance for supporting your children’s education during lockdown on the Department of Education website

Find specific Wales guidance for supporting your children’s education during lockdown on the Welsh government website

What precautions will schools take against coronavirus?

Your nursery, school or college should let all parents know how they plan to reopen, including what they’ll do to keep risks as low as possible. This could include:

  • teaching smaller classes, so fewer children are in contact with each other
  • 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

The details will be different from school to school. You can always speak to someone at your child’s school, nursery or college to talk through their plans.

Read the UK government plans for schools in England

What if my child catches coronavirus at school?

The UK government has described what’s expected to happen in schools in England. 

If your child, their teacher, or someone in their class at school, nursery or college, develops coronavirus like symptoms, they should be sent home to self-isolate for 7 days. Other people in their household should also self-isolate for 14 days.

The person with symptoms can get a coronavirus test and is encouraged to take one. If they test negative, they and their household can stop self-isolating.

If they test positive, the rest of their class or group should be sent home to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group goes on to develop symptoms.

The Scottish government says their plans for schools will only go ahead if everything is in place to ‘test, trace, isolate and support’ people who come into contact with COVID-19. More details are expected in the coming weeks. Read a Scottish government news story about opening schools safely

The Welsh Minister for Education has said that the preparation time before schools open allows testing and tracing to run for a whole month. During these 3 weeks, they can also keep watch on evidence and developments elsewhere. Read the Welsh government press release about wider school opening

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 Friday 5 June 2020

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