How Covid could impact schools this autumn

11:32am - 08 September 2021

Pupils are back in the classroom and schools are now responsible for setting out how they will reduce the risk of coronavirus on a day-to-day basis.

The government has issued guidance about how the virus is handled in schools but each one is responsible for developing its own action plan, outlining extra cleaning, how it will keep track of cases, and when to get public health involved if necessary.

Guidance has changed this term so the pandemic should cause less disruption.

Our public health team, which supports schools to manage outbreaks of any infection or disease, will continue to work with schools if Covid cases start spreading around pupils and staff while they are at school.

If too many people catch the virus, temporary precautions can be introduced to reduce the risk and help contain the spread.

We’ll advise schools on infection control, extra testing, and bringing back the wearing of face coverings into secondary schools and colleges.

If needed, advice can also be given on re-introducing bubbles or returning to online learning - but these would be temporary measures and only used as a last resort. 

Being in school is absolutely the best thing for the health and wellbeing of most children and having social contact with friends and time to learn is essential.

But Covid is still an ongoing problem and we’ll need to respond quickly to any outbreaks to reduce the risk of it spreading further into society and reaching more vulnerable people.

This is the same approach public health would take to any outbreak of any disease in schools.


When to get tested for Covd-19

If you or your child have any of the main symptoms of Covid-19, even if they're mild, you or they should stay at home and get a PCR test.

This type of test is sent to a lab to be processed, to check if you have the infection.

The main symptoms are:

  • a high temperature – meaning you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – meaning coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – meaning you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

Staff and pupils at secondary school still take twice-weekly lateral flow rapid tests.

If this comes back positive, you should then get a PCR test to confirm the result.

Family and friends can also get regular rapid tests.


What to do if your child needs a PCR Covid test

Book online or call 119 if your child needs a PCR test.

The result will be sent by text or email. You’ll need to tell your child’s school, whether the result is negative or positive.

If it’s negative, they can go back to school but if it’s positive, your child will need to continue to self-isolate.

The positive test email or text will give you information about how to complete contact tracing with NHS Test and Trace.

They’ll look at who your child has been in contact with to assess the risk of the virus spreading and we can help anyone who is at-risk to get the right public health advice and access any support they need.

Most contacts no longer need to self-isolate because most people are exempt under the current government guidance.

Contact tracing is also your chance to ask any questions you may have about your child or family’s self-isolation, as well as get information about how you can access any financial payments or practical support.

To find out more about the vaccination and see a list of walk-in clinics across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, go to


Keep up the good habits

Washing our hands regularly, covering our faces when in crowds and keeping distance between ourselves and those we don’t live with are still important in the fight against coronavirus.

Continue to get outside as much as possible or open windows and doors if you are inside.

If you’re due to attend an event, show, concert or music festival, take a rapid test before you go and stay home if it's positive.