SIS is a study taking place in 150 schools across 15 local authorities in England in 2020 to 2021, investigating the role of schools in the spread of COVID-19 and how transmission within and from schools can be minimised.
SIS is conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in conjunction with the Office for National Statistics, the Department of Education, the Department of Health & Social Care and Public Health England.
The Schools Infection Survey (SIS) is a flagship study investigating the role of schools in the spread of COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact worldwide, and spread of the infection within and from schools has been a concern throughout this time. SIS was established to assess transmission of COVID-19 within and from school settings, to examine mitigation measures aimed at minimising transmission and mental health factors related to the pandemic.
The study is being carried out by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine together with partners at Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics. Working alongside the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social care, the study is collecting data from students and teachers at 150 schools in 15 Local Authorities in England.
The study is collecting nose swabs, saliva samples and blood samples, looking for the presence of the COVID-19 virus as well as for antibodies against the virus. Antibodies are produced as your body is fighting an infection, whether you develop symptoms or not, and even after you’ve recovered, antibodies remain in your blood at low levels for some time. If you encounter the same virus again, these antibodies respond to it quickly, and you tend not to become sick again, or have a much less severe illness.
One main aim of SIS is to look at what’s called seroconversion. This is a word that describes someone who starts out without antibodies to COVID-19, but has antibodies when tested at a later date. This change indicates that someone has had a COVID-19 infection. In some cases the person may never have felt sick or have had any symptoms – this is called an asymptomatic infection. Many people have had COVID-19 but never had any symptoms, and this contributes to the spread of the virus. The nose swab tests also provide a snapshot of the number of people with an asymptomatic infection on a given school day.
In addition to taking samples, we ask participants in the study to fill out questionnaires. These provide us with lots of information that we can combine with the results of the tests, and help us get a clearer picture of exactly what is going on with participants in the study.
Bulletins from the Office for National Statistics
The first round of the study took place in November 2020 during the autumn term, and looked at 105 schools in 14 local authorities. This round had 11,194 participants comprising 4,941 staff and 6,253 students.
Findings from the first round focused on rates of current infection.
This first round of data showed that the proportion of students testing positive for current COVID-19 infection was 1.24%, with 1.29% of staff testing positive. This was roughly the same as levels found in the wider community at the peak of the second wave of the pandemic. The proportion testing positive for current infection in the community was 1.2% during the week 8 November to 14 November 2020.
Round 2 took place while schools were still open in December 2020, and looked at both infection rates and antibody rates.
The results showed that the proportions of staff and students testing positive for current COVID-19 infection were lower than those measured in the community. Testing only included people in school on testing day, however, so anyone isolating at home with symptoms was excluded from testing data as a result.
The proportion of school staff testing positive for antibodies was similar to other working age adults in the community. There was little evidence to suggest that participating school staff are at greater risk of infection than other working adults, although response rates were low.
Schools have been working hard to put in place control measures to keep staff and students safe. Almost all schools in this sample implemented control measures strongly recommended by the Department of Education.
These control measures included efforts to ensure symptomatic individuals stayed at home, enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols, limiting gatherings, and staff distancing from other adults.
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Adult vaccination (including among staff) and other "school-gate" measures, such as the rapid asymptomatic testing programme, likely contributed to reducing the risk of infection.
Round 6 of the Schools Infection Survey (SIS), a study jointly led by Public Health England (PHE), the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), was carried out in June 2021 across 141 primary and secondary schools within selected local authority areas in England.
The study looked at the prevalence of COVID-19 infection among pupils and staff sampled in schools. The results from testing showed lower levels of current infection in pupils and secondary school staff than in the Autumn term 2020.
The percentage of primary school pupils in school on the day of testing that tested positive was 0.27%, showing very little change from Round 5 (May 2021). In secondary schools 0.42% of students tested positive, representing an increase from Round 5 but a significantly lower level than the Autumn term 2020 (Round 1 and Round 2).
The reduced rate of infections in schools in England could reflect the lower rates in the community.
The number of students in both primary and secondary schools testing positive for COVID-19 was lower in the most recent round of testing in the Schools Infection Survey (SIS) carried out between 5 – 21 May 2021, than in December 2020.
During the testing period of round 5, 0.65% of primary students tested positive for having current infection. 0.05% of secondary school students tested positive for having current infection, which was significantly lower than in the Autumn term of 2020. Current infection levels in staff were not possible to declare due to low numbers of staff testing positive.
SIS is jointly led by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Public Health England (PHE) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and is funded by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The latest round of the Schools Infection Survey (SIS) suggests a significant reduction in the percentage of secondary school pupils and staff testing positive for COVID-19 infection since schools reopened compared to last November.
Data from the fourth round of the SIS – research jointly led by Public Health England (PHE), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) – tested 7,271 secondary school pupils and 2,744 staff for COVID-19 infection between 15 - 31 March. The results suggest infections fell significantly among both staff and pupils compared to previous findings in November and December 2020.
The latest study, which looked at schools from across 14 local authorities taking part, found that 0.34% of secondary school pupils tested positive for current infection (95% confidence interval: 0.16% to 0.63%) and 0.19% of secondary school staff tested positive for current infection (95% confidence interval: 0.04% to 0.58%).
In comparison to the first two rounds, which used data from schools across 11 local authorities in secondary schools, this study found the percentage of pupils testing positive (0.33%) was significantly lower than in Round 1 (1.42%) and lower than Round 2 (1.22%), and the percentage of staff testing positive (0.32%) was significantly lower than in Round 1 (1.36%) and Round 2 (1.64%). The number of positive test results in round four for primary schools was too small to present due to statistical disclosure criteria.
Teachers and other school staff show similar levels of antibodies for the COVID-19 virus as other working age adults, according to data collected by the Schools Infection Survey during the Autumn term.
The findings from the second round of testing by the Schools Infection Survey (SIS), carried out in schools over December 2020, suggests the proportion who were positive for COVID-19 infection among participating staff and students on site was lower than the surrounding community, and antibody tests showed no evidence to indicate participating school staff are at greater risk of infection.
The report confirms schools are working hard to prevent COVID-19 infections occurring on their sites, although transmission remains an important risk that needs continued efforts and careful monitoring as schools re-open fully.
SIS is jointly led by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Public Health England (PHE) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and is funded by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). It aims to examine the prevalence of current infection and antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 among staff and students, monitor COVID-19 related absences, and assess implementation of measures by schools to control the virus, through valuable collaboration between scientists, school staff, pupils and parents.
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The modelling study, not yet peer-reviewed, was conducted by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
Schools present more opportunities for the virus to be transmitted so are an important consideration when looking at the spread of COVID-19. In January 2021, the Government in England announced the closure of primary and secondary schools as part of the country’s third national lockdown. However, there are concerns about the potentially damaging impact closures may have on students’ academic development and general wellbeing. To date, the evidence on how effective school closures have been in curbing the spread of the virus remains unclear.
First round of new surveillance study in schools finds 1.24% of pupils and 1.29% of staff tested during school visits in November were positive for COVID-19.
COVID-19 infection rates among students and staff in schools were linked to those found in the wider community at the peak of the second wave, one of the largest studies in schools has found.
The Schools Infection Study (SIS) – a partnership between Public Health England, the Office for National Statistics and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) – tested nearly 10,000 students and staff across England in November.
Testing occurred at schools, and was not determined by participants having any symptoms.
The study found 1.24% of pupils (95% confidence interval 0.96% to 1.58%) and 1.29% of staff (95% confidence interval 0.96% to 1.68%) tested positive for current infection overall.
The percentage of staff testing positive for current infection was higher in secondary schools (1.47%: 95% confidence interval: 1.08% to 1.97%) than in primary schools (0.75%: 95% confidence interval: 0.32% to 1.47%).
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine LSHTM, Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England (PHE) are to jointly lead a study to better understand the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in schools in England.
Letters will go to a sample of primary and secondary schools shortly asking them to take part in the study, which is being sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care.
The sample will consist of two year groups from 100 secondary schools and every child attending 50 selected primary schools, starting from 2 November 2020, totalling approximately 30,000 pupils and 12,000 staff.