Alternative Covid-19 mitigation measures in school classrooms: analysis using an agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission

M J Woodhouse*, Willy P Aspinall, R S J Sparks, Ellen Brooks Pollock, Caroline L Relton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
92 Downloads (Pure)


The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic has impacted children’s education, with schools required to implement infection control measures that have led to periods of absence and classroom closures. We developed an agent-based epidemiological model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in a school classroom that allows us to quantify projected infection patterns within primary school classrooms, and related uncertainties. Our approach is based on a contact model constructed using random networks, informed by structured expert judgement. The effectiveness of mitigation strategies in suppressing infection outbreaks and limiting pupil absence are considered. Covid-19 infections in primary schools in England in autumn 2020 were re-examined and the model then used to estimate infection levels in autumn 2021, as the Delta-variant was emerging and it was thought likely that school transmission would play a major role in an incipient new wave of the epidemic. Our results were in good agreement with available data. These findings indicate that testing-based surveillance is more effective than bubble quarantine, both for reducing transmission and avoiding pupil absence, even accounting for insensitivity of self-administered tests. Bubble quarantine entails large numbers of absences, with only modest impact on classroom infections. However, maintaining reduced contact rates within the classroom can have a major benefits for managing Covid-19 in school settings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number211985
Pages (from-to)1-34
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Not peer-reviewed.
Preprint prior to submission to journal for peer-review.


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • agent-based epidemiological model
  • Covid-19 in schools
  • random networks
  • structured expert judgement


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