Enhanced surveillance for education

Content

Public Health Scotland (PHS) are using information from a range of sources to improve our understanding of how COVID-19 is affecting people in educational settings, including children and young people, as well as the education workforce. Details of the programmes which contribute to this are provided here.

Public Health Scotland weekly statistical report

The PHS weekly statistical report provides information on the occurrence of cases by educational age group (2 to 4, 5 to 11 and 12 to 17 year olds), including a dashboard presentation of these data. It also describes cases reporting an occupation in the education and childcare sector. The dashboard includes information on hospitalisations by age group.

Assessment of the proportion of child contacts in a school setting who subsequently test positive for COVID-19

This report will provide findings of analysis of cases of COVID-19 among primary school pupils. It will report an assessment of the proportion of school-based exposures to a pupil index case that result in secondary cases of COVID-19 among pupil contacts.

COVID-19 infections among school pupils in Scotland

Our initial report presents the distribution of cases of COVID-19 across the pupil population in Scotland from 17 August to 18 October 2020, covering the period of Term 1 of the 2020 to 2021 school year. These data show the occurrence of COVID-19 cases in this population across the course of Term 1, and by area, and by school type. This does not reflect directly the measurement of COVID-19 incidents within schools, as not all pupil cases identified will have been present in school during their infectious period.  This analysis will be updated regularly.  

COVID-19 Antibody Survey of Education Staff (CASS)

CASS aims to find out the proportion of people working in education in Scotland who have had COVID-19, by testing for antibodies in their blood. This type of test looks at whether someone has been infected in the past. By testing people through the school year, we will be able to track if this is changing over time.

Any member of staff working in an educational setting can register their interest in participating. To do so they will require internet access to complete the PHS online survey. Staff who are selected to join the survey will be sent a home testing kit, which requires them to take a small finger-prick blood sample, which is returned by post to the laboratory for testing. The results are returned to staff, and are analysed by us to improve our understanding of COVID-19 in this group.

The survey launched in early October, and eligible staff should have received information through their schools and professional networks. View further information for participants.

Within 6 weeks of the survey going live around 30,000 education staff completed the PHS online survey, and an even higher number, around 35,000 education staff, had the antibody test.  Initial results will be published before the end 2020.

With high uptake we are aware a number of CASS participants have experienced problems with the code they got to help them take part in the survey. This is a recognised issue that has affected a small proportion of participants and the UK Government antibody testing service is working to resolve this.

School infection survey

PHS want to ensure that schools are as safe as possible for pupils and staff.  To better understand the spread of COVID-19 infection in schools and minimise transmission, we need to know if there is any evidence of COVID-19 that is not currently picked up through symptomatic testing. PHS is developing a monitoring survey which will sample of S4 to S6 school pupils and staff working in secondary schools in Scotland.

Staff and pupils participating in the survey will take part in swab testing for COVID-19 every month – this will allow us to understand if there are changes over the school year. The analysis from this study will help us work out the best way to minimise transmission in schools. This study complements and adds to findings from other surveillance projects, including CASS.

Record linkage to estimate COVID-19 risk in teachers

In this surveillance programme we are combining information on the teaching workforce, with information on COVID-19 cases and the effects of COVID-19 on health. We have worked with the General Teaching Council Scotland to establish this work.

This will allow us to assess the risk of COVID-19, and of hospitalisation, admission to intensive care, and death due to COVID-19 among teachers, compared to the general population. We plan to look back at what the comparative level of risk was in March 2020, and also to assess this through the academic year 2020 to 2021.  Results will be available before the end of 2020.

Public Health Scotland wider impacts dashboard

PHS has been regularly updating a range of measures on the publicly available wider impacts dashboard, which assess the effects on health and health services, such as immunisations and the delivery of child development reviews

Future developments

Public Health Scotland daily dashboard

The PHS daily dashboard provides information on the occurrence of COVID-19 at neighbourhood level. The data on trends and demographics on this dashboard is currently being developed and will, in future, include information on the 0 to 14 age group. Exploration of which data, of relevance to Education settings, can be presented in the PHS COVID-19 daily dashboard is ongoing. 

School outbreak data

An Incident surveillance system for schools is being developed. All COVID-19 incidents for schools are reported and managed by local Health Protection Teams (HPTs) in conjunction with schools and Education Departments.

Public Health Scotland provides support to this process and is only involved in a subset of such incidents. Further support is provided in regular discussion nationally with HPTs.

Contact

If you have specific questions about the enhanced surveillance of COVID-19 in education, please email the team at phs.covid-19@nhs.net