Family & Education

Coronavirus: Can my child go to school with a cold?

Child studying at school Image copyright Getty Images

With coronavirus cases rising in parts of the UK, schools are adopting measures to reduce the spread and keep pupils safe.

But many parents still have questions.

What if my child has a cough or cold?

The NHS says that the main symptoms of coronavirus are

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • the loss of, or change to, your sense of taste or smell

If a child shows these symptoms, they - and other members of their household - should self-isolate for 14 days and get a test if possible.

A runny nose is not a reason to get tested for coronavirus, says NHS Scotland.

In the case of a heavy cold, children may need to take a day or two off to get better, says the government in Scotland.

Help from the NHS:

Can my child get tested at school?

All schools in England have been provided with a small number of testing kits. These are only to be offered to a pupil or a member of staff in the "exceptional circumstance" that they cannot get a test by any other route.

The government says the test kits should be handed over to an adult or else a child's parent or carer, who should carry out the test off site (unless it is a boarding school).

Testing kits have also been provided to schools and colleges in Wales and Northern Ireland, but Scotland has not followed suit.

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What precautions are schools taking?

Measures being taken include hand sanitiser stations, one-way systems and staggered break times.

Enhanced cleaning procedures have been introduced, and social distancing wherever possible.

How will children mix at school?

The challenges in getting young children to socially distance are recognised in guidance to schools.

In England, children are being encouraged to mix in small groups or "bubbles" to balance the fact that they are unlikely to stay 2m apart.

In Wales and Scotland, pupils are exempt from the 2m distancing rule "because it is harder for children to understand the concept of physical distancing".

Older children, such as those in secondary schools, are being encouraged to avoid touching one another as much as possible.

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Will children have to wear face coverings at school?

If they live in a local lockdown area, pupils in England in Year 7 and above will have to wear face coverings indoors, when not in class.

Additionally, headteachers in any secondary school in England have the power to introduce masks.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, secondary pupils have to wear face coverings between lessons.

In Wales, it is up to local councils and schools to decide.

What happens if there's a coronavirus outbreak?

A school is said to have a coronavirus outbreak if there are two or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or a rise in the number of children off with suspected Covid-19.

If an outbreak is confirmed, a mobile testing unit may be sent. Testing will start with the infected pupil's class, followed by their year group, then the whole school if necessary.

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In some cases, a larger number of pupils - for instance, a year group - may have to self-isolate at home as a precaution.

Closing a school will ''not generally be necessary'', the government says.

If pupils can't come in, schools are expected to have a home-working plan ready to go.

What about schools in local lockdown areas?

If there is a change in the number of coronavirus cases in an area of England, schools will use a four-stage tier system of extra measures.

  • Tier 1: Schools fully open to all pupils, face coverings required in corridors and communal areas for staff and students Year 7 and above
  • Tier 2: A rota system to be used by secondary schools and colleges for most pupils; primary schools stay open
  • Tier 3 and 4: Remote learning for "wider groups of pupils"; vulnerable and key worker children continue to go to school

These measures will be applied as ''an absolute last resort,'' the government says. Areas where local lockdowns are currently in operation, are in tier 1.

What else has changed?

The school day may look different to previous years.

Schools are being asked to:

  • stagger start and finish times
  • avoid assemblies or collective worship with more than one group
  • avoid contact sport and unnecessary sharing of objects
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What about getting to school?

Walking or cycling will be encouraged. Parents should not gather in groups at school gates, or go on site without an appointment.

In Leicestershire, parents have been asked to wear face coverings when picking up or dropping off children at school.

Dedicated school transport services have been asked to:

  • move children in "bubbles"
  • provide hand sanitiser
  • apply social distancing where possible
  • ask children over 11 to wear face coverings

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