AbstractBackgroundAssessing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by children in schools is of critical importance to inform public health action. We assessed frequency of acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 by contacts of children with COVID-19 in schools and households, as well as the amount of virus shed into the air and onto fomites in both settings.MethodsCases of COVID-19 in children in London schools were identified via notification. Weekly sampling for 3-4 weeks and PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 of immediate classroom contacts (the “bubble”), non-bubble school contacts, and household contacts was undertaken supported by genome sequencing, along with surface and air sampling in the school and home environment.ResultsWithin schools, secondary transmission was not detected in 28 individual bubble contacts, representing 10 distinct bubble classes. Across 8 non-bubble classes, 3/62 pupils tested positive– all three were asymptomatic and tested positive in one setting on the same day, unrelated to the original index case. In contrast, the secondary attack rate in naïve household contacts was 14.3% (5/35) rising to 19.1% (9/47) when considering all household contacts. Environmental contamination with SARS-CoV-2 was rare in schools, regardless of school type; fomite SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified in 4/189 (2.1%) samples in bubble classrooms, 2/127 (1.6%) samples in non-bubble classrooms, and 5/130 (3.8%) samples in washrooms. This contrasted with fomites in households, where SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified in 60/248 (24.2%) bedroom samples, 66/241 (27.4%) communal room samples, and 21/188 (11.2%) bathroom samples. Air sampling identified SARS-CoV-2 RNA in just 1/68 (1.5%) of school air samples, compared with 21/85 (24.7%) of air samples taken in homes.SummaryThe low levels of environmental contamination in schools are consistent with low transmission frequency and adequate levels of cleaning and ventilation in schools during the period of study. Secondary transmission in schools was rare. The high frequency of secondary transmission in households associated with evident viral shedding throughout the home suggests a need to improve advice to households with infection in children in order to prevent onward community spread by sibling and adult contacts. The data highlight that transmission from children is very likely to occur when precautions are reduced.