School, childcare and COVID-19

In the advice below you will see the terms 'booster dose', 'first round of COVID-19 vaccination' and 'household and non-household close contact' mentioned. If you're not sure what they mean, here is an explainer:

What do ‘booster dose’ and ‘first round of COVID-19 vaccination’ mean?

Booster dose

A ‘booster dose’ is the extra dose of COVID-19 vaccine used to give better protection to people who have already had their first round of COVID-19 vaccination.

Booster vaccines are currently only available to people aged 16 or older.

First round of COVID-19 vaccination

When we say ‘first round of COVID-19 vaccination’ we mean your dose 1 and dose 2 if you got AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer. Or your single dose if you got the Janssen vaccine.

Children aged 5 and older can now get a COVID-19 vaccine.

If you have a weak immune system, you should have been offered an ‘additional dose’ to give you better protection. This is because your immune system may not respond as well to vaccination. You will still need a booster dose after this additional dose.

What do household and non-household close contact mean?

You are a household close contact if you:

  • live or sleep in the same home as a person who has tested positive
  • use a kitchen or bathroom in shared accommodation with a person who has tested positive
  • are a sexual partner of a person who has tested positive

You are a non-household close contact if you and someone who has had a positive PCR test have been within 2 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes in total in 1 day.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, their close contacts include people they were in close contact with in the:

  • 48-hour period before they developed symptoms
  • 24-hour period before their test, if they did not have symptoms

It does not include people they saw briefly and did not touch. For example talking to someone for a few minutes more than 2 metres apart.

When to keep your child at home from school or childcare

Children aged 13 and older

Here’s what to do if your child is aged 13 or older. 

When to keep your child at home

Keep your child at home if they:

  • have symptoms of COVID-19
  • have a positive PCR or antigen test result
  • are any kind of close contact - unless they had their booster vaccine more than 7 days ago or have had their first round of COVID-19 vaccine and have also had COVID-19

When it's OK to send your child to school or childcare

It is usually OK to send your child to school or childcare if they:

  • do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • are a close contact but had a booster vaccine more than 7 day ago
  • are a close contact but have recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive since 1 December 2021
  • are a close contact but had their first round of COVID-19 vaccine and also tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months
  • only have nasal symptoms, such as a runny nose or a sneeze, but otherwise feel well
  • are not taking any form of paracetamol or ibuprofen that could hide a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or over)
  • got a negative COVID-19 PCR test result or negative antigen test results and have not had any new symptoms for 48 hours
  • have not had diarrhoea for 48 hours
  • are being tested as part of a serial testing programme, but have no symptoms. For example, some children in direct provision centres
  • are tested regularly because they are in a vulnerable group
  • are doing antigen tests because of a case of COVID-19 in their pod or class - as long as they do not have symptoms and their antigen test results are negative
Children aged 12 or younger

When to keep your child at home

Keep your child at home if they:

When it's OK to send your child to school or childcare

It is usually OK to send your child to school or childcare if they:

  • only have nasal symptoms, such as a runny nose or a sneeze, but otherwise feel well
  • are a non-household close contact and do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • have recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive since 1 December 2021
  • are not taking any form of paracetamol or ibuprofen that could hide a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or over)
  • got a negative PCR or antigen test result, are not a close contact, and have not had any new symptoms for 48 hours
  • have not had diarrhoea for 48 hours
  • are being tested as part of a serial testing programme, but have no symptoms. For example, some children in direct provision centres
  • are tested regularly because they are in a vulnerable group
  • are doing antigen tests because of a case of COVID-19 in their pod or class - as long as they do not have symptoms and their antigen test results are negative

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 they need to:

Testing and children

Children should do antigen tests if they:

  • are age 4 or older and have symptoms of COVID-19
  • are age 4 or older and are a household close contact
  • have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in their pod at school or childcare
  • have 2 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their group or class in different pods within a 7-day period

Children aged 3 months to 3 years old should get a PCR test if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

Read more about antigen tests for children

If your child has a positive test result

If any of your child's tests are positive, you need to:

They can return to school or childcare when both of these apply:

  • they have not had a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or over) or other symptoms for 48 hours
  • it has been 7 days since they first developed symptoms
If your child has a negative test result

If your child is using antigen tests because they have symptoms of COVID-19, they should do all 3 antigen tests.

They can return to school, childcare and their usual activities if their tests are negative and they have not had symptoms of COVID-19 for 48 hours.

What the people your child lives with need to do

People your child lives with need to restrict their movements at least until your child gets their PCR test result or completes their antigen tests.

They do not need to do this if they:

  • have had a booster vaccine more than 7 day ago - boosters are only available to over 16s
  • recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months and have had their first round of COVID-19 vaccine
  • recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive since 1 December 2021

What they need to do next depends on your child's test result.

If your child gets a negative test result

If your child gets a negative PCR result or 3 negative antigen tests, they can stop isolating 48 hours after they have no symptoms.

They can return to school or childcare if they do not have another infectious disease, such as flu.

The people they live with who were restricting their movements can return to their normal activities as long as they do not have symptoms. If they have symptoms, they should isolate and get a COVID-19 test.

If your child gets a positive test result

If your child's test result is positive, they should keep isolating until both of these apply:

  • they have not had a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or over) or other symptoms for 2 days
  • it has been 7 days since they first developed symptoms

If your child is doing antigen tests, you should also report their positive antigen test and list their close contacts.

The people they live with will become household close contacts. They need to get tested for COVID-19 and may need to restrict their movements. This will depend on the age and situation.

Information:

For advice on what the people your child lives with need to do visit:

If you are a close contact of COVID-19

If your child is a close contact of COVID-19

If your child is unable to isolate

Young children cannot isolate from other people. If you are living with a child who has COVID-19 and cannot be kept away from other people, there is separate advice that you and the people you live with should follow.

Returning to school or childcare after a positive test

If you child has completed their isolation period for the length of time needed, they can return to school or childcare.

They do not need to do another test or to show a negative test result to return. They do not need a GP cert or a note from a GP.

Their school may ask you to confirm that your child is well enough to attend using an online or paper form.

Download a Return To Educational Facility Parental Declaration Form (PDF, 1 page, 95KB).

Last updated: 14 January 2022 at 9am

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