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Implementation of COVID-19 Preventive Measures in Primary and Secondary Schools Following Reopening of Schools in Autumn 2020; A Cross-Sectional Study of Parents' and Teachers' Experiences in England

By Zahin Amin-Chowdhury, Marta Bertran, Meaghan Kall, Georgina Ireland, Felicity Aiano, Annabel Powell, Samuel E Jones, Andrew Brent, Bernadette Brent, Frances Baawuah, Ifeanychukwu Okike, Joanne Beckmann, Joanna Garstang, Shazaad Ahmed, Neisha Sundaram, Chris Bonell, Sinead M Langan, James Hargreaves, Shamez Ladhani

Posted 06 Jun 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.03.21258289

Objective The main objective was to assess implementation of and ease of implementation of control measures in schools as reported by staff and parents. Design Cross-sectional study. Setting Staff and parents/guardian participants in the 132 primary schools and 20 secondary schools participating in sKIDs and sKIDsPLUS surveillances. Main outcome measure Prevalence of control measures implemented in Autumn 2020, parental and staff perception of ease of implementation and acceptability of conducting school surveillance studies. Results In total, 56/152 (37%) schools participating in Public Health England's sKIDs study of COVID in schools accepted the invitation to participate in the survey. By 28 December 2020, 1,953 parent and 986 staff respondents had completed the online questionnaire. While more than half the parents were positive about their children returning to school, roughly a third reported being a little anxious. 90% and 82% of primary and secondary school parents were either completely or partly reassured by the preventive measures implemented in their schools. Among staff, 80% of primary staff and 87% of secondary school staff felt that they were at higher risk of COVID-19 because of their profession; only 52% of primary school staff and 38% of secondary school staff reportedly felt safe. According to the teaching staff, most preventive measures were well-implemented apart from requiring 2-metre distancing between staff. For students, maintaining the 2-metre distance was reported to be particularly difficult. By extension, secondary schools also struggled to maintain small groups at all times or ensuring that the same staff were assigned to each student group (a problem also commonly reported by parents). Conclusions Variable implementation of infection control measures was reported by staff and parents. Whilst the majority were not worried about returning to school, some parents and staff, were concerned about returning to school and the risks posed to children, staff and household members.

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