The Schools Infection Surveys took place in 150 schools across 15 local authorities in England in 2020 to 2021 and was enlarged in 2021 to 2022 to include 180 schools, investigating the role of schools in the spread of COVID-19 and more.
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.
Schools Infection Survey 2
The second Schools Infection Survey began work in 2021, after completion of the first SIS study. This second project looked at antibody levels in primary and secondary pupils, as well as assessing the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
Using 'lollipop' saliva testing to measure antibody levels, and questionnaires for mental health evaluations, the team were able to gather useful data about ongoing challenges in schools following the easing of restrictions in England.
Bulletins from the Office for National Statistics
England: Attitudes to vaccines and preventative measures, November to December 2021
Pupil antibody data, November to December 2021
England: Mental health and long COVID, November to December 2021
Pupil antibody data, January to February 2022
Schools Infection Survey 1
Bulletins from the Office for National Statistics
Round 4 antibody data Bulletin
See the Schools Infection Survey testing in action in this video filmed with Westgate Primary School in Warwick
Download the research update for rounds 3 and 4
Careers in science | Schools Infection Survey staff discuss their journeys
Professor James Hargreaves | A message for parents, staff and students
LSHTM’s contribution to SIS was recently acknowledged as a significant contribution to the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic by Jennifer Harries, Chief Executive Officer of UKHSA.
"The study partnership of ONS, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and UKHSA, working closely with DfE and the wider scientific community via the Schools Scientific Advisory Group, has provided critical insight into the impact of coronavirus in schools. Your approach has been a tremendous example of pan-Government working alongside academia – true teamwork across organisational boundaries." - Jennifer Harries, Chief Executive Officer of UKHSA.
The Schools Infection Study with ONS and UKSHSA in year two has been given a Gold Award in the Collaboration category for the Operational Delivery Profession on the 8th Apr 2022. This is an award by the UK Civil Service.
"The Schools Infection Survey and the Covid Infection Survey have jointly been recognised in this Civil Service award. These awards recognise the successful delivery of large scale projects by the Civil Service recognises and pays tribute to outstanding individuals, teams, managers and leaders who make up the Civil Service profession. Awards are presented to inspirational teams or individuals who deliver complex and ambitious projects across Government." Emma Rourke Director, Health Analysis and Pandemic Insight, Office for National Statistics.
We also came third in the Government Project Delivery Profession Award on the same date. This was an award by HM Government (UK).
"The Covid Infection Survey (CIS) and Schools Infection Survey (SIS) came third in the Government Project Delivery Profession Awards for Excellence in Delivery. The Government Project Delivery Awards are presented to inspirational teams or individuals who deliver complex and ambitious projects across Government." Emma Rourke Director, Health Analysis and Pandemic Insight, Office for National Statistics.
Questionnaire data provides insight into how remote learning impacts pupils, and sentiments around the use of face covering
Over 40% of parents of primary school students and 38% of parents of secondary school students felt their child found remote learning ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’, according to new data from the Schools Infection Survey (SIS).
‘Struggling with motivation’ was reported as the main barrier to learning at home by 39% of primary school pupils' parents, 44% of secondary school pupils' parents and 55% of secondary school students themselves.
The main concern for teachers about providing remote education was a lack of engagement from pupils (69% in primary and 74% in secondary).
Secondary school pupils absent from school due to a COVID-19 related reason during the autumn term reportedly spent longer on remote learning, 3.4 hours on average, than primary school pupils, who spent 2.5 hours on average.
Read the full story here: Over half of secondary school students struggle with motivation as a result of remote learning
Findings from the second round of the Schools Infection Survey found high prevalence of antibodies in secondary school students, driven by both natural infection and vaccination.
97% of secondary school pupils and 62% of primary school pupils in England tested positive for having COVID-19 antibodies between 10 January and 3 February 2022, according to new data from the Schools Infection Survey (SIS).
This is a significant increase in antibody prevalence compared to the first round of antibody testing, from 82% of secondary school students and 40% of primary school students between November and December 2021.
In the second round of antibody testing for the SIS project, which is jointly led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 7,664 students from 106 primary schools and 44 secondary schools took part.
Read the full story: Nearly all of secondary school pupils estimated to have antibodies against COVID-19
Important data from the Schools Infection Survey included in analysis of statistics around the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools in England.
The Office for National Statistics has published an analysis of data on COVID-19 cases in school pupils aged four to 15 years old attending state-funded schools, up to 31 December 2021. It examines the prevalence of COVID-19 amongst students in different demographics and geographic locations, as well as with differing vaccine status.
One of the projects contributing to this data is the Schools Infection Survey (SIS), which is jointly led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Dr Patrick Nguipdop Djomo, Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at LSHTM and co-chief investigator of SIS, commented on the importance of this data.
Read the full story: Expert comment - COVID-19 in schools in England
Findings from Schools Infection Survey also provide insights into impact of COVID-19 on students’ mental health.
Over three quarters of secondary school pupils and nearly half of primary schools pupils are estimated to have had antibodies against COVID-19 in December last year, according to new data from the Schools Infection Survey (SIS).
Antibody prevalence was highest in secondary school students (82%), compared to 40% prevalence in primary schools. This difference could be due in part to secondary school students being eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at the time of testing. Therefore secondary school students could have antibodies as a result of natural infection or vaccination, whereas the antibodies in primary school students reflects mostly natural infection.
In children aged between four and 11 years old, who were not eligible for vaccination, antibody prevalence steadily increased with age at the time of the survey.
Read the full story: 82% of England students estimated to have antibodies against COVID-19
Data provides insights into vaccine sentiment among pupils and parents, as well as challenges schools have encountered when implementing protective measures.
New data from the Schools Infection Survey (SIS) shows high COVID-19 vaccine uptake in pupils aged 12 to 17 in England, and reasonably high likelihood of parents of 5 to 11 year olds (not currently being offered the vaccine) to agree to their children being vaccinated.
The study also provides insights on factors affecting vaccine uptake in pupils, and parents’ vaccine sentiment.
The original SIS project was set up during the 2020/2021 academic year, and has now been relaunched for the current academic year and expanded to be representative of the whole of England, including 117 primary schools and 63 secondary schools across the nine regions of England.
Read the full story: School survey shows over half of primary school parents likely to agree to their child being vaccinated
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).
Read the full story: COVID-19 study finds prevalence was lower in schools in June 2021 than Autumn term 2020
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).
Read the full story: Survey shows COVID-19 infection rates in secondary schools significantly lower than Autumn term
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.
Read the full story: Study shows drop among secondary school pupils and staff testing positive for COVID-19 compared to Autumn 2020 term
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.
Read the full story: School staff with COVID-19 antibodies similar to other working age adults in local community
New modelling suggests reopening schools fully could increase the R number to above 1
Fully reopening schools could push the reproduction number (R) of SARS-CoV-2 in England above 1.0, potentially putting an end to the decline in new cases, suggests a new pre-print.
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.
Read the full story: The impact of reopening schools on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in England
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%).
Read the full story: COVID-19 infection rates in schools mirror rates in the community
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.
Read the full story: LSHTM to jointly lead new study of COVID-19 infections in schools