Pupils wearing face masks as they arrive for school (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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The number of older kids with coronavirus has increased "significantly" during the second wave of the virus, Government scientists say.
This rise is helping to drive up the rate of infections with pupils bringing the deadly virus back into their homes.
The findings were made in a review by Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), dated November 4 and published on Friday.
It suggests that secondary school pupils played a higher role in introducing infection into households as the prevalence of infection in children aged 12-16 increased between September and October.
But the difference is less marked for younger children, the document says.
The review, published on November 13, states: "In the second wave, prevalence has risen significantly in school age children, with the rise increasing initially among those in school year 12 (age 16/17) – age 24 and young people (e.g. secondary school age).
The number of older kids with coronavirus has shot up in recent weeks
(Image: Digital/AFP via Getty Images)
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"The rising prevalence was first visible around the time that schools reopened."
It said there is no direct evidence that transmission within schools plays a "significant contributory role" in driving increased rates of infection among children.
But it adds "neither is there direct evidence to suggest otherwise".
SAGE has said there is low risk to children of suffering severe clinical disease from Covid-19 but there are "significant educational, developmental and mental health harms" to children from schools being closed.
It adds there is some evidence that epidemic growth restarted before the reopening of schools.
It comes as schools, colleges, nurseries and universities remain open during England's month-long lockdown – which began on November 5.
Schools have been told to stay open during the second coronavirus lockdown
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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Last week, all students and teachers in secondary schools and colleges in England were told to wear face coverings when moving around the premises under Government guidance.
Separate data from the Office for National Statistics said secondary school-aged children, older teenagers and young adults continue to have the highest positivity rates.
But rates are now decreasing in older teenagers and young adults, and appear to have levelled off among younger children, teenagers and those aged 25 to 34 years, it added.
Positivity rates continue to increase in people aged 35 years and over, and are now above 1% among those aged 35 to 49 and 50 to 69 years, the ONS said.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "The chief and deputy chief medical officers have been clear the balance of evidence is firmly in favour of schools remaining open, and have highlighted the damage caused by not being in education to children's learning, development and mental health.
"Children are at very low risk from the virus, and staff are not at higher risk than those working in other sectors.
"We have strengthened the already rigorous measures schools are following to reduce transmission of the virus, including requiring face coverings in all secondary schools in communal areas outside classrooms."