FAQs for parents/carers of children returning to school in September

New information on school admissions; updated information on travelling to and from nursery, childminders, school and college; updated information on education, EHCPs, wellbeing and online safety and updated information about assessment and exams (Guidance: updated 21 August).
What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term 

Guidance for parents and carers of children attending community activities, holiday or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings (Guidance: updated 20 August)
Guidance for parents and carers of children attending out-of-school settings during the COVID-19 outbreak

Following the latest Government announcement


I have concerns about the arrangements that the school is putting in place to respond to COVID-19?

Schools are required to follow national guidance and carry out risk assessments to ensure that children, staff, and parents are kept as safe as possible. This does mean however that each school may be implementing arrangements that are unique to the circumstances, site access and layout of the school. If you have any concerns you should make contact with the school direct to discuss the matter further.

Will all schools re-open?

Yes, all schools should re-open at the start of September.

Does my child have to go to school?

Yes, as of September 2020 the Department for Education has reapplied the law. It is compulsory for your child to receive a full-time education.

Why does my child have to go to school?

Returning to school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing. Time out of school is detrimental for children’s cognitive and academic development. Lower academic achievement also translates into long-term economic costs due to having a less well-qualified workforce. This affects the standard of living that today’s pupils will have over the course of their entire life.

What is the risk to my child?

Evidence suggests that the risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low but that there are negative health impacts of being out of school.

Will my child be safe in school?

Yes, each school is different, but all schools are following Government guidelines on reopening schools to children. Schools will have a bubble and your child will stay in this bubble. They will also have completed a risk assessment, and this will be regularly updated by them. They will also have enhanced cleaning arrangements. You can help by asking your child to wash their hands regularly, not touch their face, cough into their elbow, use tissues and bin after use and to do what school asks them to do to ensure their safety.

How can I find out what the plan is for my child’s school?

You can visit the school’s website or contact the Head Teacher.

How many children are in a bubble?

In primary schools, a bubble is usually a class of pupils. In secondary schools, a bubble is likely to be a whole year group. Secondary schools have larger bubbles to allow pupils to have access to the whole curriculum and specialist teachers.

Should my child wear a mask in school?

There was originally no requirement to wear masks but guidance from the Government changed on 25 August. Schools have the discretion to require face coverings in secondary schools in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed. Primary schools are not affected by this new policy.

Where local lockdown restrictions apply, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils in secondary schools when moving around, such as in corridors and communal areas, where social distancing is difficult maintain.

Will my child’s teacher be wearing a full mask?

In most cases teachers will not be wearing full masks. However, there are a few situations where this may be required - for example if a member of staff must provide close medical care for your child.

What if another child in the class has symptoms?

Schools will be following Government guidance if this happens. The child will be sent home and asked to self-isolate. Children who have been in close contact with them do not need to go home to self-isolate unless the child tests positive, your child develops symptoms themselves or you have been requested to do so by NHS Test & Trace. Your child will be asked to wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and running water or use hand sanitiser and the area around the person with symptoms will be cleaned with normal household disinfectant after they have left to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

What if my child has symptoms?

If your child has symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature/hot to touch, new persistent cough, loss or change in sense of taste or smell) the child and their household need to follow the Government guidance on self-isolation (www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance) and arrange for your child to be tested (call 119 or book through www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test).

You also need to inform the school.

My children have different start times – why is this?

Schools will be trying to reduce contact between children at particular pressure points in the day. These include drop off and collection times. Please follow the guidance that school gives you. Children will still receive a full education; school will have adjusted the timetable or start/end times to accommodate this. If this causes problems, please talk to your school. Schools will be asking you not to gather at the school gate.

Will I be allowed to go into my child’s school?

School will inform you what to do if you need to visit. It may be that you need to make an appointment. If you need to collect an ill child, you may be asked to wait outside, and staff will bring your child to you.

I am concerned about my child sharing school resources. How can this be safe?

For individual and very frequently used equipment, such as pencils and pens, your child may be provided with their own items. Alternatively, you can provide these basic items in a pencil case, for your child. Secondary children are expected to have their own stationery and it is important that you provide these. Classroom based resources, such as books and games, can be used and shared within the bubble; these should be cleaned regularly, along with all frequently touched surfaces. Resources that are shared between classes or bubbles, such as sports, art and science equipment will be cleaned frequently and meticulously and always between bubbles.

Will my child’s ‘bubble’ have separate toilet facilities?

This is unlikely but schools will be cleaning the toilets regularly and children will be encouraged to wash their hands.

Will my child still receive the full curriculum?

Schools will be trying to ensure that this occurs. Modifications to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, with the aim of returning to normal curriculum content by no later than the summer term 2021.

Will my child be in the same classroom all day?

Primary aged children already spend most of the day in one classroom and this will continue. Secondary children may find that movement around the school is reduced or that they are asked to move around school on specific routes. School may adopt staggered break times and lunch times and have time for cleaning surfaces in the dining hall between groups. Passing briefly in the corridor or playground is low risk.

What will happen if I don’t send my child to school?

From September onwards, the usual rules on school attendance will apply. If your child is of compulsory school age it is a parents’ duty to ensure that they attend regularly at the school where they are a registered pupil. Your child’s school is responsible for recording attendance and following up pupil absence. The aim would always be to work with parents/carers to resolve any issues or concerns around attendance.

Can my child attend for just a few days each week?

As a rule, no, as all pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full-time education. In very exceptional circumstances there may be a need for a temporary part-time timetable to meet a pupil’s individual needs. For example where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full-time education and a part-time timetable is considered as part of a re-integration package. A part-time timetable must not be treated as a long-term solution. Any pastoral support programme or other agreement must have a time limit by which point the pupil is expected to attend full-time or be provided with alternative provision.

Are breakfast clubs and wrap around care re-starting?

Yes, schools can now re-start breakfast clubs and wrap-around care. Pupils who attend these will be able to move from the activity into their normal bubble.

How will children with additional needs be supported in planning their return to school?

All schools must have considered planning for children and young people with additional needs in their recovery plans. They should be based on what they already know about the child’s needs and review their individual plans in light of any impact of Covid-19. If there are things which have increased the vulnerability of a child, this will be considered in the planning for their return.

My child has ASD. Is there anything I can do to support them with the return to school?

Your child may find change difficult and it is important that you help them to understand which parts of going to school will still be the same and what will be different - predictability and understanding will help your child to re-access school successfully in September. The following guidance offers help and advice on how to support your child.

My child has social, emotional and mental health needs. How can I support with returning to school in September?

Whether your child finds change difficult or not, it is important that you help them to understand which parts of going to school will still be the same and what will be different - predictability and understanding will help your child to return to school safely and successfully in September. The following guidance offers help and advice on how to support your child.

I have just returned from holiday abroad, what should I do?

Details about which countries can be visited without quarantine restrictions on return are constantly being updated, check for the latest position on travel quarantine on the government website. If you find that your family is required to quarantine then your child must isolate at home for the necessary period. You should contact your child’s school and let them know so that homework can be provided.

I am considering home educating my child rather than sending them back to school. What do I need to consider?

As schools reopen fully in September we are aware that a number of families may be thinking about Elective Home Education. We encourage families to think carefully about this and the aim of this document is to provide you with all you need to know to make an informed choice.

Exams and assessment

My child has just finished Y1 and missed the phonics screening check, what will happen about this?

The government is consulting on this. The latest proposal is that pupils will do a phonics screen in the autumn and pupils who do not meet the threshold will do an additional check in later in Year 2 in 2021. This will allow schools to ensure that any interventions can be put in place to support pupils with their knowledge and use of phonics.

What will happen with Key stage 2 SATs in 2021?

Year 6 SATs are currently expected to proceed as normal.

What will happen with GCSEs and Post 16 qualifications in 2021?

GCSEs and Post 16 exams are expected to take place in 2021. The government is consulting on making them slightly later in the summer term.

My child was disappointed with their GCSE/A-level exam results in 2020, what can they do?

Pupils will be able to resit any subjects they wish by doing the exams in the autumn. Your son/daughter should speak to their school/college following results day to consider if this is the right option for them.


Will school transport be running in September?

All school routes and timetables will run as they did prior to the lockdown with no reduced capacity due to social distancing and students should go to their bus stops as they normally do. Timetables can be checked by going to https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/transport/school-and-college-transport/school-bus-timetables/

When will my child receive their bus pass?

New bus passes for returning and new year 7 secondary school students are being sent to home addresses and will be with students by the end of August at the latest. New bus passes for returning primary school students will be delivered to the school in September by GCC. Bus passes for new reception students will be sent to home addresses during the holidays.

Will there be social distancing on school transport?

There will be no social distancing on contracted transport because all of the passengers will be attending the same school but students will need to sit in their ‘year group bubbles’ on the bus. The bus driver will have a seating plan and will make it clear where the students need to sit. Students will need to abide by this and not try to sit with their friends. On busy routes where every seat needs to be used there will be students from different year groups sat by each other as this will be unavoidable where bubbles are adjacent.

Will my child be required to wear a face mask on school transport?

Face coverings should be worn whilst on the vehicle; this includes any students that are brought to school by taxi/minibus. In the first week of September when pass holding students board the vehicle they will be asked by the driver to take 2 washable face masks from a box. Students are being given 2 reusable face masks so they always have one wear whilst the other is in the wash. Students can of course wear their own face coverings rather than the reusable ones supplied by GCC.

Should students social distance at bus stops?

Students need to social distance from each other whilst waiting at bus stops; only students from the same household or year group should stand together.

How often will vehicles be cleaned?

Vehicles will be thoroughly cleaned each day and cleaned between different bubbles using the vehicle.

If my child feels unwell are they able to travel on school transport?

If your child becomes unwell they should not travel on school transport. If they are already at school, you will be contacted to pick up your child from school.

Does my child have to wear a face covering on public transport?

Students that travel on public transport must wear a face covering. Students will receive 2 reusable masks from GCC that will be sent to school for the children to collect on their first day. On the morning of their first day, they will need to provide their own face covering for the journey in to school using public transport. Students can of course wear their own face coverings rather than the reusable ones supplied by GCC.

You may want to consider whether cycling, walking or car sharing is a viable option.

My child uses home to school transport arranged by GCC. What are the arrangements going to be for September?

The arrangements for September are detailed in this guidance document.

School Lunches

Will school lunches still be available?

Yes, school kitchens will be fully open from the start of the autumn term. School kitchens are required to comply with the guidance for food businesses, which has been put in place to ensure safe practices. To achieve this, lunch and break times may be organised differently. Your child may for example have breaks at slightly different times or be asked to eat in their classroom.

Will hampers still be available to free school meal children from September?

As the government guidelines state that all pupils are to be back at school in September hampers will no longer be available and a free meal will be provided in school. Vouchers will no longer be issued to families in relation to FSM as all children are expected to be in school.

Medical Conditions

What if my child is anxious about going into school?

It will be normal for some children to be worried about returning to school. Talk to them about their concerns and use these FAQs to help answer any questions they may have. If your child seems particularly anxious, talk to your school.

I’m really anxious about my child returning to school.

This is a time where everyone has anxieties. Be assured that your child’s school will be following Government guidance and taking every precaution to ensure the safety of everyone working within the school. This includes all children, all staff and any visitors to school.

My child has been shielding, can I keep them off school?

No, shielding advice for all adults and children paused on 1 August, after a continued decline in the rates of community transmission of Covid19. This means that even the small number of pupils who will remain on the shielded patient list can return to school, as can those who have family members who are shielding. If you have concerns, you may like to talk to the consultant/paediatrician working with your child.

My child has a serious medical condition which has required them to be shielded, will they be safe at school?

Yes, your child’s school will be following Government guidance and taking every precaution to ensure their safety. However, you may like to talk to the consultant/paediatrician working with your child for more specific information. Your school will work with you/the medical professionals to ensure any additional safety measures are put in place.

My child has a serious condition and the medical professionals have advised against a return to school. Will I get in trouble?

School would like the medical professionals to confirm this is the case. This could be by letter, phone call or email from the professionals. Then, and because they are complying with medical/public health advice, schools will be able to immediately offer your child access to remote education. These activities will be monitored. Absence in this case will not be penalised.

Admissions to School September 2021

Where do I find out about applying for a school place in September 2021?

The process for applying for a Reception (Primary) or Year 7 (Secondary) school place in September 2021 remains unchanged and you can find more details of the application process and deadlines at https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/education-and-learning/school-admissions/.

The Grammar School test date has been moved to a later date – how does this affect the secondary applications process?

The Department for Education has made no changes to the application process for admission to secondary school following proposals by grammar schools to delay the entrance test this year. The grammar schools are working to the latest guidance issued from the DfE to conduct the testing later in the school year in order to give children more time to prepare for the test.

Parents or guardians will need to complete the Common Application Form for admission to secondary school as usual, indicating schools in order of preference, irrespective of when grammar school test results are available and submit it by the closing date of 31 October 2020. Any applications received after this date will be considered late.

If a child is not offered a place at grammar school, their grammar school choices will be discounted and their first non grammar school preference will be considered their first choice.

  • We therefore strongly recommend for Gloucestershire parents to make use of their five preferences and to list their local secondary school as a preference in case a grammar school place cannot be allocated.
  • If parents do not list their local comprehensive school they may not be allocated a place, as it could be filled with children who have listed it as a preference.

Faith School Admissions

Admission authorities for schools designated as having a religious character may use faith based oversubscription criteria in their admission arrangements and allocate places by reference to faith where the school is oversubscribed.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there have been restrictions on the opening of places of worship (especially for communal worship) and parents and their children may have been unable to attend their place of worship as normal. This has meant that faith schools with admissions arrangements that prioritise applicants based on membership or practice of the faith, evidenced through regular attendance at a place of worship and/or at communal worship, may find their admission arrangements have been affected for the September 2021 intake. Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to faith school admission arrangements.

Please refer to your preferred school’s website for further information.

Help us improve Gloucestershire County Council

Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.