Omicron: Can children go to school if a parent or guardian has Covid?

Credit: PA

With the new school term beginning, the government has ordered face masks to be worn in English classrooms bringing them in line with the rest of the UK.

The measure comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered ministers to draw up contingency plans to tackle staff shortages caused by coronavirus across industries.With the NHS under extreme pressure, staff absences have made the situation even more difficult and there are fears a similar situation could develop in the education system.

And with parents still likely to become infected, some parts of the UK will still require children to self-isolate for a period of time.

Covid cases have soared to their highest ever level in recent days, breaking through the 100,000 a day barrier since December 22.

So, firstly, will children be allowed to go to school if a parent or guardian tests positive?

The rules differ slightly across the UK.

Children in England would be allowed to go to school. Credit: PA

From December 14 last year in England, all children and young people aged between five and 18 years and six months identified as a contact of someone with Covid are "strongly advised" to take a lateral test every day for seven days and continue to attend school unless the result is positive.

Similar to rules in England, children in Wales can still attend school if their parent or guardian has tested positive - but they are asked to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days before arriving at school.

However, any child displaying Covid symptoms must stay at home until they have received a negative test result.

Meanwhile in Scotland , anyone identified as close contact - including children returning to school - should self-isolate for ten days and book a PCR test.

Likewise in Northern Ireland, the country's Education Authority says pupils would need to self-isolate for 14 days.

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"Close contacts will be identified and will need to self-isolate for a period of 14 days and may decide to request a Covid-19 test," it says on its website. "The Public Health Agency will advise on the next course of actions once a test result is available."

Children in Northern Ireland must remain at home if they develop symptoms until they have got a negative result. Pupils also must be tested twice a week.

What are the new rules for schools in England?

Over the weekend the government announced secondary school pupils in England will be required to wear a face-covering while in classrooms, as well as in communal areas.

Staff will not be expected to wear a mask while in the classroom but they will need to wear a face covering in corridors and communal areas - this rule applies to primary and secondary schools.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the new rules will not be in place “for a day longer than we need it.”

  • Nadhim Zahawi: 'Education is our priority'

He also said keeping schools open was a priority, and the government was looking at issuing new advice in case of mass staff absence.

Mr Zahawi said this could include measures like merging classrooms and using more remote learning.

Previous rules around self-isolation and other Covid prevention measures still apply.

All secondary school pupils are encouraged to take lateral flow tests twice a week and schools are also expected to provide on-site testing.

Schools are also required to keep hygiene and ventilation methods in place.

An additional 7,000 air cleaning units are being provided to schools, colleges and early years settings to improve ventilation in teaching spaces.

What are the rules in the rest of the UK?

Since the end of November, all staff and visitors to schools in Wales are expected to wear a mask indoors, as well as all secondary school pupils.

Wales has also delayed the start of term until January 10 in order to give schools enough time to prepare for Covid prevention measures.

Welsh schools can also reintroduce staggered start times if they choose to.

Secondary school pupils will also be asked to take three tests a week instead of two.

Pupils across the UK will need to test at least twice a week Credit: PA

The Welsh government has also lowered self-isolation requirements from 10 days to seven if the person has a negative test on the seventh day.

In Scotland, the mask rules are the same as in Wales for secondary school pupils, staff and visitors.

Staggered start times, one-way systems, restrictions on assemblies and twice a week testing are also present in Scottish schools.

Scotland has also reintroduced a strengthened approach to minimising contacts, primarily through the reintroduction of groupings where practicable indoors.

Staff and secondary school pupils must also wear a mask while on-site in Northern Ireland.