FAQs for parents/carers of children returning to school on March 8th

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 24 February 2021).

What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during COVID-19  

Guidance for parents and carers of children attending community activities, holiday or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings (Guidance: updated 23 February 2021)

Guidance for parents and carers of children attending out-of-school settings during the COVID-19 outbreak

Following the latest Government announcement

General

Will all schools fully re-open?

Yes, all schools should fully re-open on March 8th.

Does my child have to go to school?

Yes, as of March 8th, 2021, 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.

Will my child need to continue wearing a face mask in the classroom?

On Tuesday 6 April, the government confirmed that face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school and college classrooms as a precautionary measure when students return after the Easter holiday.

Subject to the roadmap process, as part of step 3, we expect these precautionary measures to no longer be recommended. This would be no earlier than 17 May and will be confirmed with one week’s notice.

My child is at primary school. 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.

Will my child be required to take a test for Covid to be able to return to school?

Secondary school children are being asked to participate in on site testing on their return to school. The intention is for every child to have a received a negative test prior to returning to face to face teaching.  A further two tests should be taken on site before moving to home testing.  Your child will be issued with a test kit and instructions on how to carry this out at home.  By taking three assisted tests at school, your child will be supported in becoming familiar and comfortable with the process

Testing of children in secondary schools is not mandatory but is encouraged as a further precaution to reduce the risk of transmission of the infection within school settings. The rationale is that secondary aged children transmit Covid-19 at a similar rate to adults and are often asymptomatic. If your child does not participate in the testing programme they will still be able to return to school in line with the school’s arrangements around any phased return.

There is no requirement for primary school age children to be tested as they are considered to be a lower risk in transmission of the virus and there is insufficient evidence to prioritise testing of this group.

What happens if my child has a positive lateral flow test? 

If the test has been taken at school, your child will need to self-isolate immediately in line with the stay-at-home guidance.   Current guidance states that a confirmatory PCR test is not required while prevalence of the virus is high.

If the test has been taken at home, school should be informed of the result so that close contacts can identified.  You should book a confirmatory PCR test online for your child. They should isolate for 10 days (following the first positive result and re-start the 10 days if they develop symptoms). School should be informed of the result of the PCR test.

What should I do if my child is isolating following a positive LFD test result and subsequently develop symptoms?

If your child is isolating because of a positive test result but did not have any symptoms, and they develop COVID-19 symptoms within your isolation period, start a new 10 day isolation period by counting 10 full days from the day following the symptom onset.

They can stop self-isolating after 10 full days if the symptoms have gone, or if the only symptoms are a cough or anosmia, which can last for several weeks. If they still have a high temperature after 10 days or are otherwise unwell, keep them at home and seek medical advice.

If someone in my household has a positive LFD but a negative PCR, but has symptoms, does my household have to self-isolate?

LFD testing is only recommended for use in people that do not have symptoms of covid-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature, a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)).  If an individual is experiencing any of these symptoms they, and their household, must self-isolate and book a PCR test. 

If an individual takes an LFD test at home and it is positive, they and their household should self-isolate immediately. They should also arrange to have a follow-up PCR test as soon as possible. If the follow-up PCR test result is negative, the individual and their household contacts can stop self-isolating.

If the PCR test result is negative but they have symptoms, they may have another virus such as a cold or flu. They should stay at home until they feel well and seek medical attention if they are concerned about their symptoms.

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 or someone in our household has symptoms?

If your child, or anyone in the household, 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, or the person/people with symptoms, 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 March 8th 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.

Are all after school clubs starting up again e.g. Brownies, drama clubs, karate?

After school clubs can only be accessed if they are part of wrap around care.   This care should only be accessed if it is reasonably necessary to support you to work, seek work, undertake education or training, attend a medical appointment or address a medical need or attend a support group. 

Outdoor after school activities are planned to resume on the 29th March followed by all other activities on 12th April.

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.

Should my child continue with home testing over the Easter Break?

Following the success of the asymptomatic testing programme on the return to school, it is vital to keep testing at home throughout the Easter holidays and into the summer term. Your child should:

  • continue to test twice weekly over the Easter holidays
  • report results online as positive, negative or void. This information is critical in helping to understand the prevalence of the virus across the country
  • test before returning to school or college for the summer term, either the night before, or morning of, the first day back, to find and isolate any positive cases

Can I obtain test kits for my whole family?

Families and households can also access home test kits for adults.

If my child is advised to self-isolate by their school or by NHS Test and Trace and I am unable to work due to childcare responsibilities can I claim financial support?

Parents and carers of children who have been advised to self-isolate by their education setting or by NHS Test and Trace are now able to apply for a Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment of £500, if they meet the eligibility criteria. The extension of the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, which is administered by district and unitary local authorities in England, ensures that parents receive the financial support they need if they are unable to attend work due to childcare responsibilities.

Transport

Will school transport be running from 8th March?

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/

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 from March 8th?

The arrangements for are detailed in this guidance document.

Is it possible for parents to collect other people’s children from school when collecting their own?

From 29th March the guidance changed to allow you to be able to meet up outdoors with friends and family you do not live with, either:

  • in a group of up to 6 from any number of households (children of all ages count towards the limit of 6)
  • in a group of any size from up to two households (each household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible)

However the guidance states you should maintain social distancing from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble.

Therefore we do not advise parents to collect children from another household as it is unlikely that they would be able to maintain social distancing.

It would be acceptable for a parent to collect a child who lives in a separate household if the two families have formed a ‘Childcare Bubble’.  If you live in a household with anyone aged under 14, you can form a childcare bubble. This allows friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare. ‘Informal’ childcare means it is unregistered.  Not everybody can form a childcare bubble. It is against the law to form a childcare bubble if you are not eligible. To form a childcare bubble, you must live in a household with a child under 14.  You can only have one childcare bubble with one other household at a time. This means no household can be part of more than one childcare bubble. Children who live with a parent or someone with parental responsibility are not required to agree to the childcare bubble arrangement. 

School Lunches

Will school lunches still be available?

Yes, school kitchens will be fully open from the start of March 8th. 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 vouchers still be available to free school meal children from March 8th?

As the government guidelines state that all pupils are to be back at school on March 8th, vouchers will no longer be available and a free meal will be provided 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?

Children who have been asked to shield should continue to do so until further notice.  Your child’s school will continue to provide remote education for your child during this period.

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.

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