Back to School in the Age of COVID: A Guide for Parents

With school and college attendance being mandatory from September, schools, parents and students face a new and uncertain challenge of going back to school. Even though the return to education is an important step, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way things are going to work for the time being. Not only will COVID secure measures stay in place to reduce the risk of transmission, schools are also being asked to keep children in class or year group sized ‘bubbles’ and keep their distance from each other and staff where possible. We know that for parents it’s a worrying time, so we’ve put together a helpful guide with all the important back to school information on what to expect and how you can support your child through this new normal.

Staying Safe

Is It Safe For My Child To Go Back To School?

Going back to school will look a little different from what you and your child were used to before. However, all school re-openings will be consistent with new government guidelines to protect students, staff, teachers and their families. To minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission schools are required to do the following:

  • Have clear systems to prevent children and staff with COVID-19 symptoms from coming into school. If your child or a household member develops symptoms of coronavirus, or if a household member has been contacted through the NHS Test and Trace Process and is asked to self-isolate, it’s crucial that the guidance is followed.
  • Ensure that pupils wash their hands regularly, including when they arrive at school and when they return from breaks. Enhanced cleaning is also required, especially in areas or on surfaces used regularly.
  • Aim to reduce the amount of contact between different groups of pupils and between adults. Children will be in groups known as ‘bubbles’ to avoid mixing with others where possible.

What Practical Safety Precautions Will Schools Be Taking?

Most schools will be adopting a whole range of practical solutions to keep everybody safe. This includes:

  • Staggering the start and finish of the school day, including pick up and drop off times.
  • Rearranging classrooms so desks are spaced out appropriately.
  • Staggering mealtimes and breaks.
  • Moving classes to temporary spaces or outdoors.
  • Reducing class sizes where possible.
  • Limiting mixing – children will be required to stay in their groups and assigned specific staff members.

Will My Child Need To Social Distance?

When students return to classrooms in September, they will be separated into “bubbles”, so that contact between others is minimised, rather than enforcing 1 and 2 metre distancing measures. Bubbles will potentially include a whole class or year group; however, this will depend on each school individually. Teachers will also be advised to keep a two-metre distance from other adults and older pupils and assemblies will not be allowed.

Will My Child Need To Wear A Face Mask?

Face coverings are not required in schools where pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups. However, face coverings are required at all times on public transport for children over the age of 11.

What Will Happen If There Is A COVID Outbreak At School?

If a child in school has COVID-19 symptoms, they will have to be sent home straight away. If a pupil does test positive, schools will have to send home other pupils who have been in ‘close contact’, which includes those within one to two metres for more than 15 minutes. All schools are being provided with testing kits to give to parents if pupils do develop symptoms at school – however, if two or more cases are found within 14 days, larger groups such as the whole year group, or even the whole school, will have to self-isolate as a precautionary measure.

Getting Back On Track With Learning

What Is Going To Happen If My Child Has Fallen Behind?

Schools have been asked to identify gaps in learning and to make sure students catch up appropriately. Staff will be required to resume teaching a broad and balanced curriculum in all subjects, making use of flexible time to address learning loss. There are also plans for schools to start the year with a refresher course as well as implementing supplemental after-school programmes and extra assignments to get students back up to speed.

Will Exams Still Take Place In 2021?

It has been decided that exams will go ahead in summer 2021, however GCSE’s may be delayed until after next summer’s half-term break.

What Parents Can Do To Help

Help Your Child Feel Prepared

Before the start of school term, it’s a great idea to take the time to help your kids understand what they can do to help keep school a safe environment. We recommend reminding them to wash their hands regularly, carry hand sanitizer in their bag and avoid touching their face. It’s also important to build up their awareness of personal space as much as possible and how to practice social distancing in a school setting.

Provide Reassurance And Emotional Support

It’s important to remember that your child will be dealing with the stress of the pandemic very differently from you. Make sure you are providing a supportive and nurturing environment for them and responding positively to their questions or feelings. Remember to provide reassurance about returning to school and remind them that it’s completely normal to feel anxious, frustrated or scared at a time like this.

Make Time To Help Them Catch Up With Learning

Whether this is spending an extra hour a few nights a week or arranging a private tutor, it’s important to make the time to help your child catch up with their learning. Having this extra encouragement at home as well at school will make the world of difference when your child is trying to manage a bigger workload than they’ve been used to.

For more detailed information regarding going back to school in September, check the two useful government links below.

Guidance for full opening: schools

What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term