There is "no evidence" that schools play a "significant role" in driving the spread of Covid-19 in the community, according to a new research paper.
But "careful, continued monitoring" may be needed as schools reopen to learn how they impact on wider transmission, scientists say.
Covid infection and school absences
The University of Warwick paper looks at the relationship between Covid infection and school absences between September and December 2020.
Some of the key findings include:
- Teacher Covid cases fell during the November lockdown, particularly in regions that had previously been in Tier 3.
- The number of absences owing to confirmed infection in primary schools was significantly lower than in secondary schools across all regions and tiers, after the introduction of the tier system,
- In December, there was a large rise in the number of absences per school in South East and Greater London secondaries, but such rises were not observed in other regions or in primary schools.
- There was a positive correlation between cases in the community and cases in schools in some regions, with some weak evidence suggesting that cases in schools actually lag behind cases in the surrounding community.
Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, said: "Our analysis of recorded school absences as a result of infection with Covid-19 suggest that the risk is much lower in primary than secondary schools and we do not find evidence to suggest that school attendance is a significant driver of outbreaks in the community."
Dr Edward Hill, also from the University of Warwick, said: "During the first two weeks of the November lockdown, we observed an increase in pupil absence as a result of infection with Covid-19, yet in the following weeks the data indicates that in several regions there was no subsequent rise in Covid-19-caused teacher absence.
"It is important to note that our findings only refer to cases reported in schoolchildren and teachers, and do not provide an indication as to whether these individuals were infected within the school environment."