Covid rates among secondary school teachers and students have dropped significantly, tests conducted shortly after schools fully reopened this year suggest.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that about 0.32 per cent of staff in secondary schools tested positive for Covid in March, down from 1.64 per cent in December. For students, the percentage was 0.33 per cent, compared with 1.22 per cent in December.
Experts have called the results “reassuring” and said it showed that “the risk of transmission in schools is low”.
The number of staff and pupils testing positive for Covid is also lower than in November, when 1.36 per cent of staff and 1.42 per cent of pupils tested positive for current infection.
The figures form part of the Schools Infection Survey, which is produced by the ONS in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Public Health England (PHE).
There have so far been four rounds of testing. The most recent round involved 151,87 participants at 137 schools, covering 15 local authorities. Testing took place between 15 and 31 March.
Dr Shamez Ladhani, a PHE consultant epidemiologist and the study’s chief investigator, said: “Results of this study show current Covid-19 infection among secondary school staff and pupils has fallen significantly from the already low levels recorded last November.
“These findings are reassuring and contribute to wider evidence that shows the risk of transmission in schools is low.
“This also indicates the importance of public health measures in schools for reducing transmission.”
Fiona Dawe, deputy director of wider surveillance studies at the ONS, said it was essential that testing for Covid infection and antibodies in schools continued as the vaccine rolled out across the country.
She added: “The Schools Infection Survey remains an important study in assessing the role of schools in the pandemic and how the virus is transmitted in school settings," the PA news agency reported.
The ONS stressed that the data presented in the study was not representative of all schools in England.