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Questions About Going Back to School: March 2021

The government announced that schools will reopen to all pupils from the 8th March 2021. This means that parents/carers of children enrolled at schools are required by law to make sure their child attends regularly from this date.

We know that parents/carers and pupils may have some questions about the return to school. This guidance is intended to answer some of those questions.

Some frequently asked questions for parents

Will my child be tested for coronavirus before they return to school?

Secondary aged pupils (Year 7 and above) should take part in asymptomatic testing upon their return in the week beginning 8th March. Asymptomatic testing is where someone is tested for Covid-19 despite having no symptoms of the illness.

Secondary pupils will be tested three times in school and will be able to attend school following their first negative test result. After three tests have been completed, spaced three to five days apart, pupils will be given test kits to test themselves twice a week at home. Your child’s school will advise you of when your child should attend school to take part in asymptomatic testing and when they can return to school following that test if negative.

If you are a parent of a child who is vulnerable or you are a critical worker, your child should continue to be able to attend school throughout, unless they receive a positive test result.

Primary aged pupils are not being tested at school.

Is testing compulsory for secondary aged pupils?

Testing is voluntary. Your child will not be tested unless you or another parent/carer have given informed consent. Your child’s secondary school should have contacted you to ask for your agreement. Parents and children are strongly encouraged to take part, to help break chains of transmission and manage the virus. Your child will not be stopped from returning to school if you choose for them not to be tested or they are not able to undertake a test. In those cases, pupils would return to face-to-face education in line with their school or college’s arrangements.

Although the testing is voluntary, it is important to remember that asymptomatic testing is a key part of the government’s strategy to protect us all from Covid-19 and for us being able to keep schools open for face to face learning.  If you have any concerns about your child taking part in the testing programme, please contact your school to discuss this. 

My child is very anxious about the return to school. What should I do?

Speak to your child's school as soon as possible. Many children will be anxious about returning to school and your child's school will be aware of this. School staff will be able to help you find ways of supporting your child through this time and will also know about places to get help outside of school if this is needed. Remember that the earlier you seek help, the easier it will be to help your child overcome their anxiety and resume schooling.

My child has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus. What shall I do?

If your child has one or more of the main symptoms of coronavirus, your child and their household need to follow the Government guidance on self-isolation.

The main symptoms of Coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature),
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual),
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

You must arrange for your child to be tested by calling 119 or book a test online.

You also need to inform school.

What will happen if my child starts to show symptoms at school?

Every school has carried out an individual risk assessment as part of their planning. If a child becomes unwell at school, the school has safety procedures to follow in line with public health guidance. This includes contacting parents in case children need to isolate. Your child will only need to isolate if you are contacted. Parents/carers will be contacted by the school and asked to pick up their children.

How can I ensure my child continues learning if they can’t attend school because they are self-isolating?

Schools are required to provide remote education for children who can’t attend school because they are self-isolating due to coronavirus. The arrangements for remote education will differ from school to school and will also depend on how many children are self-isolating at any one time (individual pupils or whole bubbles). For more information, please contact your child’s school. 

How will self-isolation affect my child’s overall attendance at school? Will it count against them?

Don’t worry, if your child has to self-isolate in line with public health advice, their absences during that period will not count towards their overall percentage attendance.

My child has been shielding or lives with a family member who has been shielding. What shall I do?

If your child is confirmed as clinically extremely vulnerable, they will have received a letter which confirms this and advises them to shield until further notice. Children who are shielding should not attend school or college until the shielding advice ends. Their school should provide access to remote learning. You will need to speak to your child’s school and provide them with the shielding letter if requested.

Children who live with someone who is shielding are expected to attend school.  

What safety measures have been put in place at school?

Every school has been required by the government to implement safety measures designed to protect pupils, staff and the wider community.  Detailed advice has been given to schools by the Department for Education (DfE).

The DfE has also produced a shorter guidance document for parents.

The safety measures will vary slightly from school to school. Your child’s school will be able to provide you with more information and answer any questions you have if you are unsure of the arrangements in place.

Does my child have to wear a face covering in school?

Students in year 7 and above should wear face coverings, unless they are exempt, when moving around the premises, in classrooms and during activities unless social distancing can be maintained. This guidance will apply at least until Easter when it will be reviewed.

Please encourage your child/young person to take the wearing of face coverings seriously.  We recognise that it may be difficult for young people to maintain this throughout the day, but it is an essential part of the government’s strategy to prevent the spreading of the virus in schools.

This advice does not apply to children in nurseries, childminders and primary schools. Further guidance about wearing face coverings in schools is available on the website.

Does my child have to wear a face covering whilst using transport?

It is the law that children and young people aged 11 and over must wear a face covering on public transport. Public Health England advises that children and young people aged 11 and over must also wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport to secondary school or college. This does not apply to those who are exempt from wearing a face covering on public transport.

More information about transport to school is available on the Government’s website.

My child travels to school on the bus, what do they need to travel as a child?

All pupils (5-16) should have an IGO pass to travel on public transport at the standard child fare. They cost £10 and last until the end of August as your child reaches 16. You can download an application form on the TfGM website or get one from a TfGM Travelshop.

If your child qualifies for a free school bus pass, they will need to show this card to the driver. Your child will not need a separate pass for the yellow school bus services this year.

If there are any issues with public transport or travel to and from school, please contact the school who can advise on support.

My child’s attendance and punctuality at school is being affected by school transport issues. What should I do?

There may be some changes in how pupils and staff choose to travel to and from school because of the coronavirus pandemic, which may impact on school transport. Please let your child’s school know as soon as possible if there are any issues with your child’s dedicated school bus service or the public transport they use to travel to and from school, so the school can work with the Council to resolve them quickly.

If you experience any issues with your child’s dedicated transport for special educational needs and disabilities, please contact the Special Educational Needs Travel Coordination Service on 0161 474 2504/2505 or

If my child doesn't attend school regularly, will I be fined or taken to court?

From 8th March 2021, parents are once again under a legal requirement to ensure their child attends school regularly.

If a child does not attend regularly, your school will be keen to understand why and to find ways to help you and your child. It is important that you work closely with the school to improve your child's attendance. Support for you and your child may also be available from council services and your school will be able to help you access this support.

Enforcement action, such as Education Penalty Notices (fines) and prosecution, are a last resort and are unlikely if it is clear you are doing everything you can to help resolve the situation. The individual circumstances of each case will be considered before any enforcement action is started.

Absence will not be penalised in cases where a secondary age pupil is not expected to attend due to their school’s testing programme in the week beginning 8th March.

I don't want my child to return to school because of coronavirus. Can I continue to educate him or her at home as part of an informal arrangement?

No. Children who are enrolled at a school are required to attend that school regularly from 8th March. If you wish to continue to educate your child at home, you will need to make a more formal decision to remove your child from the school's roll and proceed with Elective Home Education (EHE). This is a big decision as you will become solely responsible for your child's education and any costs associated with it. You should also be aware that your child may not get a place at the same school if you decide to reapply at a later date and the school is full in your child’s year group.

If you are thinking about taking this step because of concerns about safety or because your child is anxious about returning to school, it would be a good idea to discuss this with your school before taking any action. It may be that the school can provide you and your child with the reassurance and support to enable your child to successfully resume their education at school.

Advice can also be obtained from the Education Welfare Officer allocated to your school or Stockport Council's Elective Home Education Coordinator who can be contacted on 0161 474 3805 or

I want to take my child out of school for a holiday or family visit during the school term time. What shall I do?

Parents are strongly advised to arrange holidays and family visits to take place in the school holidays. Schools are only allowed to grant permission for leave of absence if they are satisfied there are exceptional circumstances, which is very unlikely to be the case for a family holiday given that holidays can be arranged to take place in the 13 weeks of school holidays available to parents each year.

If you believe there are exceptional circumstances, you should make a request for permission to the headteacher of your child’s school. If you take your child out of school without permission, you are liable to receive a fixed penalty fine of £60 per parent per child.

Our family is required to self-isolate as we have returned from a holiday or visit abroad to one of the countries subject to compulsory quarantine rules. What shall I do?

You should inform your child's school of the date of your return to the UK, where you have travelled from and the date your child will be able to return to school. Schools should provide access to remote education for your child during this period. 

Travelling from your home, both within the UK and abroad, is heavily restricted at the current time and is only allowed for certain legally permitted reasons.  Everyone returning to England from abroad must quarantine for 10 days upon their return. Those people who have returned from or travelled through a country on the government’s “red list”, must quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel. 

Detailed information on travel restrictions and quarantine rules can be found on the website.

I’m worried about how my child’s behaviour has been affected by lockdown and/or the changes happening at school due to coronavirus. What can I do to help?

If you are worried about your child's behaviour, you should contact your child's school for additional support. Your child's school will be able to work with you to re-engage your child and re-establish routines to help your child back into school life.

My child has missed a lot of education due to lockdown. What are the plans for catch-up?

Don’t worry, your child’s school will help them to catch up. There may be some changes to the curriculum as schools are likely to prioritise teaching time cover gaps in knowledge. Schools may have to carry out assessments to work out the best way to help children catch up. If you have any concerns, please contact your child’s school.

Schools will also have plans in place for providing remote education if needed. This means that if your child needs to stay at home, due to shielding or self-isolation, their school will support them to continue learning.

My child is in Year 11 and should be taking GCSE exams in summer 2021. Are they still going ahead as normal?

No. GCSE examinations have been cancelled for summer 2021 due to the pandemic. Instead, GCSE qualifications will be based on assessments by your child’s teachers. Your child’s school will provide you and your child with more information about this over the coming weeks.

Further information:

For further information, please contact your child’s school or the Education Welfare Service on 0161 218 1106 or

Useful Links and Resources

Page updated 11/03/2021

Previous information about going back to school from September 2020.