In the first term back after the summer, more than three-quarters of Scottish schools had no pupils who tested positive for the virus, a new Scottish government paper on the transmission of the coronavirus in schools reveals.
However, the paper also states that pupil Covid-19-related absence hit its highest level earlier this month; that in 305 schools (roughly 12 per cent of all schools) more than one pupil had tested positive in the first term back; and that almost a quarter of secondary schools had more than one case occurring in the same week, on at least one occasion.
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In the last week of the first term of 2020-21, the paper says, 6 per cent of secondary schools had more than one student who tested positive in the same week (where the cases were not necessarily linked).
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The report says the higher number of confirmed cases in secondary schools reflected "both the higher incidence of cases among secondary-aged pupils and, generally, the larger school size at secondary level".
It adds that: “The occurrence of multiple pupil cases in the same week in the primary school setting has remained an infrequent occurrence.”
The paper states: “Of the  schools with more than one confirmed case of coronavirus, there were 195 schools (ie, around 7.0% of all schools) in which there was more than one positive case occurring in the same week, on at least one occasion (the cases were not necessarily linked). Of these, 118 were secondary schools (24 per cent of all secondary schools), 72 were primary schools (3 per cent of primaries), and five were special schools (5 per cent).”
Yesterday the Scottish government announced that the toughest Covid restrictions would apply in 11 council areas from Friday, but schools would remain open.
The paper – published to provide the evidence base for keeping schools open – says that there continues to be “strong evidence that children and younger people are much less susceptible to severe clinical Covid-19 disease than older people” and that there is “no current direct evidence that transmission within schools plays a significant contributory role in driving increased rates of infection among children”.
On the other hand, it says that “there is clear evidence that time out of school has a detrimental effect on children and young people’s wellbeing, including impacts on developmental and mental health harms”.
The report also says that an analysis carried out by the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has found school staff being no more likely to contract Covid-19 than workers of a similar age in other jobs.
It adds that an experimental analysis undertaken by Public Health Scotland indicated that “teachers are not at an increased risk of testing positive for Covid-19” and that a more detailed analysis would be "available shortly”.
The report in full can be found here.