Back to school 2022: Latest Covid guidelines for pupils

As children return to school this week, the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi says 'we must be everything we can' to keep schools open and announces new measures and extra help as Omicron cases continue to surge. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the latest guidelines for schools: 

1. Masks to be worn in classrooms for pupils in Year 7 and above

Mask-wearing in class, not just communal areas, is back in secondary schools – until  26 January when Plan B regulations will next be reviewed. 


2. Test-to-return required with 31m tests sent to schools

Parents have raised concerns over lack of LFTs available in local chemists over the Christmas period the government has confirmed 31 million tests had been sent to schools in advance so there should be no issue with pre-term testing. Schools running out of kits can order more from “usual channels” or call 119 for advice, Zahawi said.


3. The 7-day isolation period for pupils confirmed 

The 10-day self-isolation period for those who record a positive PCR test result for Covid-19 has been reduced to seven days in most circumstances, and the DfE has confirmed that this applies to those who attend schools. 


4. Second vaccine doses for 12-15-year-olds available

Pfizer boosters can now be offered to vulnerable children aged 12 to 15, and second jabs will be rolled out in schools for all pupils in the age group from next week. 


5. Jabs for at-risk 5-11 pupils to start “mid-month”

Younger children in the JCVI’s “clinical risk” group should get their first jab by “the middle of the month” according to the education secretary.  


6. More (but not all) schools will get air purifiers 

7,000 additional air-cleaning units would be provided to schools reporting high CO2 levels in attempt to improve ventilation in teaching spaces. Critics say that this is not enough but the education secretary defended the fact that not all classrooms need purifiers and buying one for every classroom – estimated to be around 300,000 – would be “a waste of tax payers money.”  


7. Examinations will continue to go ahead 

All planned January examinations will go ahead, and Zahawi confirmed that GCSE and A levels planned for this summer would also go ahead with the previously announced adjustments to take into account missed learning. “In the summer we will be going ahead with exams, rightly so, recognising that there has been much disruption to students studying,” he added.


8. Ofsted inspections will be scaled back 

The Department for Education (DfE) has said schools that are "significantly impacted" by Covid can ask Ofsted to defer their inspection. They also announced that inspectors who are school staff would not be asked to inspect meaning the majority of the workforce would be unavailable.