School Covid rules: Everything you need to know before school term starts

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Despite the UK’s escalating Covid situation, schools will begin welcoming students back through their doors this week. Over the festive period, preparations were made to ensure school settings would be safe for face to face teaching to resume. So, ahead of the new term, explains all the changes and rules that schools across the UK will be implementing.


Before schools broke up for Christmas, Education Minister Alex Burghart had said measures would be put in place in England to ensure “we have the best chance for the start of a normal school term”.

These include:

  • Testing on return to school
  • Increased vaccination uptake
  • Improved classroom ventilation
  • Enhanced hygiene

Today, the Government has also announced it will be temporarily re-introducing the rule of mandatory face coverings while in classrooms, for secondary school pupils.

Teachers, however, will be exempt from wearing face masks under the new guidelines.

Up to this point, England was the only one of the four UK nations where face masks were not recommended for pupils in classrooms.

The rule will remain in place until January 26, which is when the current national Plan B Covid measures run out, although they will be reviewed on or close to January 4.

After revealing the change, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “There is no doubt that the Omicron variant presents challenges but the entire education sector has responded with a Herculean effort, and for that I thank each and every one of you.

“The Prime Minister and I have been clear that education is our number one priority.

“These measures will bolster our support to schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption.”

In addition, the Government has announced that it will be making 7,000 air cleaning units available to early years settings, schools and colleges.


The Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced last Friday that some schools in Wales need to start to plan for pupils to return to online learning.

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According to Mr Drakeford, this switch was required for some students because of high levels of staff illness or absences.

However, he stated these decisions would be left up to individual councils rather than the Welsh Government.

Schools have also been urged by the Welsh Government to take up the option of two “planning days” ahead of the spring term starting so that they could assess staffing levels and put in place any measures they deem necessary.


Scotland has tightened a number of Covid restrictions in schools ahead of pupils returning in the New Year.

Examples of these rules include reducing school visitors, limits on school trips and an increase in guidance on ventilation in buildings.

Speaking before schools broke up for their Christmas break, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she wants schools to remain open “if at all possible” to prevent further disruption to pupils’ learning.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, students are also due to return for in-person teaching.

Before Christmas, Education Minister Michelle Mcllveen said the executive’s priority “remains keeping our children and young people in school”.

Northern Irish ministers have decided to maintain face coverings in classrooms for post-primary students for at least the first six weeks of the new term, subject to a review.

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