COVID-19 Mapping and Mitigation in Schools (CoMMinS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Bristol Medical School

Abstract

This project will create new knowledge and tools to help schools deal with the practical challenges of preventing and coping with an outbreak of COVID-19.

The project will test for infection in the school environment and test whether staff and pupils have current or past COVID-19 infection, over a 6-month period. We will test 4000 pupils and 100 staff members monthly. Any positive case identified as part of this study or reported within the city during the study period will be followed up to establish whether the household concerned is connected to a school (via a pupil or member of school staff). If so, we will test the members of the household weekly for 4 weeks to improve our understanding of infection transmission in this setting. We will use staff and pupil postcodes to identify the areas of the city with most infection, so that they can be given targeted support for infection control. We will improve systems for rapid and effective contact tracing, using digital support. We will work with staff, pupils and parents to adapt and use the 'Germ Defence' app to help everyone improve their infection control at school and outside school. Finally, we will assess the impact of returning to school on pupil and staff mental wellbeing, and their attitudes to this project. We will explore what schools are doing to support pupils experiencing difficulties, and assess which activities are most helpful.

Our project builds on our team's wide range of very relevant research expertise and a well-established, strong partnership between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council, Public Health England, local schools and other city stakeholders.

Technical Summary

This proposal will meet the urgent need for mapping and mitigation of COVID-19 in schools in light of their planned full re-opening in September 2020. Schools pose a major challenge due to features of their operation including the likelihood of cases being asymptomatic, the high number of contacts, the presence of vulnerable persons, and the potential for rapid onward transmission to family contacts of children and staff.

These challenges must be weighed against the benefits to children including resuming their education, peer interaction and social development. A deeper understanding of infection history and dynamics and enhanced mitigation measures will have widespread benefit for outbreak control and future pandemic resilience.

We will undertake a large-scale mapping study of prior and current COVID-19 infection in pupils and staff, including prospective testing over a 6-month period. This will dramatically enhance our understanding of infection patterns in this age group. Results will be mapped to home postcode location and linked to NHS system-wide data to highlight area-based and individual-level risk factors. We will also undertake weekly reactive testing in households with a confirmed, school-linked COVID-19 infection.

To mitigate against infection transmission we will adapt evidence-based digital tools and co-create whole school implementation interventions to support positive infection control practices by staff, parents and pupils. We will co-design and develop a system to collate multiple sources of information to augment contact tracing and facilitate outbreak control. We will explore the impact of returning to school for staff and pupils' mental wellbeing, their attitudes towards actions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and potential interventions to address identified difficulties.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description COVID response
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact I have contributed to the Bristol City Council Health Protection Advisory Committee and chair the University of Bristol COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group. Both are concerned with synthesis of evidence to support COVID response in the University, city and region.
 
Description Enhancing the utilisation of COVID-19 testing in Schools Studies: the joint analysis of the ONS COVID-19 School Infection Survey and COVID-19 Mapping and Mitigation in Schools (CoMMinS) study
Amount £189,500 (GBP)
Organisation Office for National Statistics 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 06/2022
 
Description Bristol City Council 
Organisation Bristol City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution C Rlton: PI of the study and provides advice to BCC on COVID-related research.
Collaborator Contribution Partnership in the design and delivery of a COVID-19 study of Bristol schools.
Impact Newsletters, media coverage and other outputs are detailed on the study website.
Start Year 2020
 
Description COG-UK 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution COVID-19 Genomics -UK is a national consortium tasked with sequencing the viral genome of COVID-19 infected cases. We are providing samples from COVID-19 cases detected in the CoMMinS Study.
Collaborator Contribution Providing SARS-CoV-2 sequencing resources and facilities for the analysis of cases detected in the CoMMinS study. The COG-UK sequencing lab receiving and processing our samples is at the University of Exeter.
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2020
 
Description COG-UK 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution COVID-19 Genomics -UK is a national consortium tasked with sequencing the viral genome of COVID-19 infected cases. We are providing samples from COVID-19 cases detected in the CoMMinS Study.
Collaborator Contribution Providing SARS-CoV-2 sequencing resources and facilities for the analysis of cases detected in the CoMMinS study. The COG-UK sequencing lab receiving and processing our samples is at the University of Exeter.
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2020
 
Description CoMMInS Waste Water Study Collaboration 
Organisation Middlesex University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are collaborating with a team of researchers at Middlesex University who lead a study sampling waste water from effluent in schools to detect SARS-CoV-2. We have facilitated access to our study schools to engage them in this additional project and have contributed to planning of information sharing with the Local Authority.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners lead the study design and execute the collection and analysis of waste water samples.
Impact Liaison with Public Health England and the Local Authority Health Protection Team regarding the public health use of SARS-CoV-2 data from waste water sampling.
Start Year 2020
 
Description CoMMinS - ONS SIS Collaboration 
Organisation London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This collaboration plans to establish a data infrastructure to allow the co-creation and co-analysis of information collected in two COVID school studies; the CoMMinS Study (led by Relton) and the ONS Schools Infection Survey (led by ONS and LSHTM). We are leading the establishment of a Trusted Research Environment (TRE).
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration plans to establish a data infrastructure to allow the co-creation and co-analysis of information collected in two COVID school studies; the CoMMinS Study (led by Relton) and the ONS Schools Infection Survey (led by ONS and LSHTM)
Impact Not yet
Start Year 2021
 
Description CoMMinS - ONS SIS Collaboration 
Organisation Office for National Statistics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This collaboration plans to establish a data infrastructure to allow the co-creation and co-analysis of information collected in two COVID school studies; the CoMMinS Study (led by Relton) and the ONS Schools Infection Survey (led by ONS and LSHTM). We are leading the establishment of a Trusted Research Environment (TRE).
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration plans to establish a data infrastructure to allow the co-creation and co-analysis of information collected in two COVID school studies; the CoMMinS Study (led by Relton) and the ONS Schools Infection Survey (led by ONS and LSHTM)
Impact Not yet
Start Year 2021
 
Description Public Health England 
Organisation Public Health England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have maintained regular contact and dialogue with PHE during the pandemic for (a) management of the pandemic at the University of Bristol and (b) for advice and support with the CoMMinS study
Collaborator Contribution Provision of ongoing support and advice on issues of COVID-19 managment and mitigation
Impact No hard outputs as yet. Advice has helped to inform University management decison maiing and protocol development for CoMMinS.
Start Year 2020
 
Description COVID in Schools (CoMMinS) Steering Board 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A Steering Group was convened to offer guidance and oversight to the CoMMinS study. This includes individuals from PHE, Bristol City Council and local schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description COVID, education and schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr sarah Lewis has authored a series of blogs on issues around the impact of COVID-19 in the educational sector. These have included the perceived risk of schools opening and the risk of mortality in teachers compared to other professions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://ieureka.blogs.bristol.ac.uk/2020/12/15/covid19-should-schools-close-early-for-christmas/
 
Description CoMMinS media reponses 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Multiple responses to requests for input to press articles have been provided. Commonly 2-3 requests per week are received from the Science Media Centre. Contributions have features in many of the major broadsheet or tabloid newspapers as well as online news and opinion sources since the inception of the study in September 2020.
This has led to additional enquiries about the study as well as engagement with other School based COVID-19 studies in the UK and with the Department for Education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Curriculum enhancement materials for Key stages 3,4 and 5 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We developed a suite of curriculum enhancement materials (lesson plans and resources) based on COVID-19 for use by the schools involved in the CoMMinS study as well as any other school wishing to access these resources. The materials were developed through collaboration with an eductaional charity (IRIS)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://commins.org.uk/school_staff/
 
Description Department for Education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We have established links with the Department for Education with whom we are discussing research priorities. The aim of this engagement is to ensure future research plans for CoMMInS are closely aligned with those of the DfE and therefore have potential for rapid policy translation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Media appearances relating to COVID in schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A series of media appearances have resulted from the CoMMinS study including BBC news (national and regional), BBC Newsnight, ITV and other news channels. These have included the presentation of information about the CoMMinS Study as well as providing comment and discussion of current issues pertaining to schools during the pandemic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Meetings with MP 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A series of meetings have been help with Thangam Debbonaire (MP, Bristol West) to discuss issues pertaining to the CoMMinS study. Advice was provided on stdy recruitment and contemprary issues around school closures and COVID-secure educational provision discussed. Information was shared with other constituency MPs in the city.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021