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Going back to school

Because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, schools in England closed in March 2020 for most pupils for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. During this period, parents/carers of most school children were asked to keep children at home.

More recently, the government stated that from September 2020 all children must return to school because the benefits of being back in school far outweigh the very low risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) for the vast majority of children. This means that parents/carers of children enrolled at schools are required by law to ensure their child attends regularly.

For most parents/carers and pupils, returning to school has been long awaited and is an important step on the path towards normal life resuming.

However, we know that parents/carers and pupils also have some concerns and questions about the return to school. This guidance is intended to answer some of those questions.

A quick guide about attendance and Covid-19

Some frequently asked questions for parents

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?

Shielding advice for all adults and children was paused on 1 August 2020. This means that all pupils who were on the shielded patient list can also return to school, as can those who have family members who were shielding. The only exception would be children who have been advised to continue shielding by a specialist health care professional (see below).  

My child has been advised by a specialist health care professional to continue to shield. What will happen in relation to my child's education?

If you have received advice from your child's specialist health care professional that they should not attend school due to their condition, your child’s school should provide your child access to remote education. You will need to speak to your child’s school and provide them with the letter from your child’s specialist health care professional about your child’s condition and the need to shield as soon as possible.

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 mask or face covering at school?

Children aged over 11 who travel to and from school on public transport (including dedicated school bus services) will need to wear a face covering while they are travelling.

If your child is in a primary school, the current national guidance does not recommend that they wear face coverings in school. The Government have decided that secondary school pupils and adults in areas where additional local restrictions apply should wear face coverings when moving around indoors. If local restrictions do not apply, secondary school headteachers can decide whether or not face coverings should be worn in corridors and communal areas outside of the classroom.

If you are unsure, check the website of your child’s school or contact them directly to ask about face coverings.

If your child has to wear a face covering, provide them with a sealable plastic bag to put the covering in when they are not using it. If your child loses their face covering, speak to the school, who may be able to provide a replacement.

Some children over 11 do not have to wear a face covering if they have a physical or learning disability or impairment which means that they cannot put on, wear or remove one. Please speak to your child’s school if you are concerned.

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

From September 2020, 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.

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 September 2020. 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 eas@stockport.gov.uk

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.

Information on countries subject to quarantine rules on return to England can be found on the gov.uk 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 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.

All children aged 11 or over travelling on public transport are required to wear a face covering unless they are exempt. Please can you ensure that your child has a plastic bag so that they can safely store the face covering while not in use.

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 travelcoordination@stockport.gov.uk

My child has missed months of school 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, particularly at the start of the year, as schools are likely to prioritise teaching time cover gaps in knowledge. Schools are expected to return to the normal curriculum by the summer term 2021. 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?

The government has yet not made a decision about how GCSE exams will operate in 2021.

My child is moving to secondary school next year.  Will there be open evenings this term as usual?

Unfortunately, coronavirus means that high schools are unlikely to hold open evenings this year for Year 6 pupils and their families. Most schools will be holding ‘virtual’ events instead. Please check on the school’s website or contact them directly to ask about their arrangements.

Further information:

For further information, please contact your child’s school or the Education Welfare Service on 0161 218 1106 or education.welfare@stockport.gov.uk


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Page Updated 21/09/2020

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