Coronavirus: Schools September reopening

School leaders and local authority teams have been working hard to prepare for the safe and successful return of all children and young people to Lancashire schools from 1 September 2020.

Some schools may have flexible start dates for the autumn term to support the transition of pupils into new schools, especially in year 7, however the overall aim is that from the start of September all pupils will have returned to learning.

In light of revised guidance issued by the Department for Education in July, schools have revised their risk assessments and put in place plans for a strict regime of infection control measures that will ensure pupils are safe in school.

These measures include:

  • varied start, lunch and finish times
  • timetable changes to minimise contact between groups, and
  • robust hygiene measures to prevent the spread of infection.

We recognise that parents and carers will have many questions and we have tried to address these below. 

We would however strongly encourage parents to talk to your child's school or setting to understand, clarify or resolve any specific questions you may have.

Schools re-opening in September

All stages of education from Early Years to post 16 will re-start in September with full attendance for all children and young people.

Some children and young people with complex difficulties may not be ready to return to school. This will be addressed on a case by case basis with families. If your child is unable to attend school or college for this reason, you should talk to your school /college about what support is in place in terms of remote education.

Parents’ duty to secure that their child attends regularly at school remains.

How things may be different for pupils

In order to effectively manage the risks that remain, things will be a bit different when children and young people return to school and college for the new academic year. This will include movement about the school and hygiene requirements. You should talk with your child about these changes and why they are important – but reassure them that they are back to school to enjoy their learning as normally as possible. The curriculum will remain broad and ambitious, with all subjects covered, although contact sport is not possible.

Schools in restricted areas

Living or working / attending school in a restricted area does not necessarily mean that schools and settings will be closed. In the event of a local outbreak, the PHE health protection team or local authority may advise a school or number of schools to close temporarily to help control transmission. Schools will need a contingency plan for this eventuality. This may involve a return to remaining open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, and providing remote education for all other pupils.

Face coverings in schools

The wearing of face coverings in secondary schools is at the discretion of the headteacher.

As an extra precautionary measure, face coverings should be worn in communal areas in schools that are in areas subject to local restrictions by staff and pupils over the age of 11.

Government guidance confirms that face coverings should not be worn in classrooms. Some pupils will be exempt from wearing face coverings due to specific needs and difficulties. Parents and carers will need to provide the face coverings.

The government does not recommend the use of face coverings in primary schools. They are not recommended as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups. View the latest information from the Department for Education (external link).

Safety of children returning to school

The scientific evidence shows that coronavirus (COVID-19) presents a much lower risk to children than adults of becoming severely ill, and there is no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults. Of course, there will still be risks while coronavirus (COVID-19) remains in the community, and that is why schools and colleges will be asked to put in place a range of protective measures.

Shielding families

Shielding advice for all adults and children paused on 1 August, though this is subject to a continued decline in the rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). This means that the small number of pupils who will remain on the shielded patient list can also return to school, as can those who have family members who are shielding.

Children with special educational needs

Schools have been advised by Ofsted to work closely with families to support the return of pupils supported by an EHCP back into school. Schools are aware that some pupils with SEND (EHCP or SEN support) will need specific help and preparation for the changes to routine that the return to schools will bring and are planning to meet these needs, for example using social stories and through PSHE and wellbeing programmes.

Children not attending school due to Covid 19

Where children are not able to attend school as parents are following clinical and/or public health advice, the absence will not be penalised. New attendance coding has been introduced for schools to allow for this.

Pupils of compulsory school age must be in school unless a statutory reason applies (sickness, leave of absence or religious observances).

Attendance update 4 September 2020

Lancashire County Council recognises the national position regarding statutory attendance and the implications for parents who do not send their children to school. However we recognise that in the current climate some families may be anxious about returning their children to school.

Whilst the issuing of a fine for failure to attend school remains an option for schools, we are giving a strong message to all our school leaders that we should all be working in close partnership with families to help reassure them that it is safe to return to school. Our advice to schools is to only consider fines in exceptional circumstances and when all other options have been exhausted.

In line with Department for Education guidance schools should:

  • Continue to build respectful relationships with staff, pupils, families and other stakeholders in order to secure their trust and engagement
  • Liaise with other agencies working with pupils and their families to support attendance
  • Work with families to develop action plans that will address concerns,  remove barriers and provide additional support to support a planned return to school
  • Ensure that pupils are immediately offered access to remote education where a pupil is unable to attend school as they are following current government guidance re COVID19; with the school keeping a record of, and monitoring engagement with this activity. Where parents opt to keep a child off school for absences not related to government/PHE advice re COVID19, schools are not obliged to provide access to this education.

Children attending more than one setting

Where a child routinely attends more than one setting on a part time basis, for example because they are dual registered at a mainstream school and an alternative provision setting or special school or in Early Years, schools and settings should work through the system of controls collaboratively, minimising contact across groups. Parents are advised to minimise the number of wrap-round providers they use.

Staggered start and finish times

Some schools are introducing staggered starts or adjusting start and finish times to keep groups apart as they arrive and leave school. This should not reduce the amount of overall teaching time. Changes to the school or college day may include condensing or staggering free periods or break time but retaining the same amount of teaching time, or keeping the length of the day the same but starting and finishing later to avoid rush hour.

Social distancing outside schools

A number of schools have raised concerns regarding safe social distancing outside of schools at the start and end of the school day. Parents are encouraged to support schools in managing the safe entry and exit of pupils by following the school's social distancing measures when dropping off and picking up their children. Local authority officers are working with schools to identify particular areas of congestion and to put in place additional measures to support safe social distancing.

School meals

The DfE has advised schools that kitchens should be reopened. On some sites managing the safe serving of hot meals may be challenging. Parents should discuss local arrangements with their school if concerned.

Getting to and from school

The use of public transport by pupils, particularly in peak times, should be kept to an absolute minimum. Pupils should walk or cycle to school if at all possible. Lancashire County Council is working with schools to survey parents on their typical routes to school and to develop potential alternatives. It is now the law that children and young people aged 11 and over must wear a face covering on public transport.

Dedicated school transport is safer for pupils as it mimimises wider social contacts. The law relating to facemasks does not apply to dedicated school transport, however, DfE advice recommends that people aged 11 and over should wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated school transport to secondary school or college from the start of the autumn term. Pupils should sanitise hands on boarding and exiting transport. Schools have been advised to put in place safe boarding procedures and to consider seating and grouping arrangements on buses to minimise social contacts.

Find out what you need to know about travelling in Lancashire as schools return in September and what we are doing as a local authority in preparation for higher demands on our highways network.

Confirmed infection within school

Your child's school is required to alert Public Health and Lancashire County Council in the event of any suspected or confirmed case. In the event of a single confirmed case, contacts will be followed up and those affected advised to self-isolate. In the event of additional cases, the school will work with the authority and the decision to temporarily close a group or school will be made upon the advice from Public Health.

A letter may be sent by schools to advise parents. Schools must not share the names or details of people with COVID-19 unless essential to protect others.

If someone in school has symptoms

If anyone in the school becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and advised to follow 'stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection', which sets out that they must self-isolate for at least 10 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have COVID-19. Other members of their household (including any siblings) should self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.

If your child has to self-isolate

For individuals or groups of self-isolating pupils, remote education plans should be in place. All remote learning plans should align with the aspects of the curriculum the child is currently studying. This support should commence immediately and schools have been advised to regularly follow up all learners who are working remotely. The programme should be of equivalent length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school.

Parents must be prepared to safely self-isolate their children for 10 days if they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, or if anyone in their household develops symptoms of COVID-19.

Testing for Covid 19

All children can be tested, including children under 5, but children aged 11 and under will need to be helped by their parents/carers if using a home testing kit. Tests can be booked online through the NHS testing and tracing for coronavirus website. Parents must provide details of anyone they or their child have been in close contact with if they were to test positive for COVID-19 or if asked by NHS Test and Trace.

Schools should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation, however parents must advise schools of outcomes of a test.

Looking after your child’s mental health and well-being

The government has just issued new guidance for parents and carers on looking after the mental health and well-being of children and young people, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Do also talk to your school. All schools will be doing a lot of work this term with children and young people to help them adjust to the challenges of the last six months.

If your child is unwell at school

If a child is unwell, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on the age and needs of the child, with appropriate adult supervision if required. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If they need to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should use a separate bathroom if possible.