Coronavirus (COVID-19): Back to school guide

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guide to going back to school

What to expect

Schools will reopen to all pupils on 8 March. They were previously closed to many pupils because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Schools have been working hard to make sure they can reopen safely. Every school will be different, but there might be:

  • social distancing rules, such as limits on the number of teachers or other pupils each pupil comes into contact with
  • different start and finish times for different groups of pupils
  • different ways in and out of school for different groups of pupils
  • increased hygiene and handwashing
  • rules about wearing face coverings in certain parts of school, such as corridors or communal areas, and in classrooms for secondary pupils and further education (FE) students
  • rapid (lateral flow testing) for secondary pupils and FE students

These differences might make it daunting for pupils and their parents, carers or guardians. You can talk to your child’s school to find out about the changes they’ve made.

GOV.UK has more guidance for parents about schools and colleges during COVID-19.

You or your child shouldn’t go to school if anyone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus. If you have symptoms you should:

If your child starts to feel unwell at school, they should tell a teacher.

Rapid (lateral flow) testing in schools

Rapid tests will be available for:

  • secondary pupils, including those with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
  • further education students
  • school staff

They’ll get 3 tests to take in school. After that they’ll get tests to take at home twice a week. 

Primary school staff will get tests to take at home twice a week.

Children under 11 won’t be given tests. 

These tests are being offered because of people because around 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus do not have symptoms. 

Taking the tests is not mandatory. But it is advised because it can help identify people without symptoms who are highly infectious with coronavirus, so that they can be advised to self-isolate.

Parents, carers and guardians

To help your child prepare for school:

  • talk to them about their feelings about going back to school 
  • offer reassurance and support
  • keep in touch with their school about any changes they make
  • plan your journey to and from school: consider cycling or walking, and if you need to take public transport remember you’ll need a face covering
  • look after your own mental health and wellbeing if you’re feeling anxious about your child returning to school

Resources to help you and your children

Children and young people

It’s okay to feel a bit anxious about returning to school, but you don’t need to feel scared. It’s a chance to see friends and get back to learning. Your teachers and school staff will be there to:

  • help keep you safe
  • help you get used to any changes the school has made
  • support you with any subjects you missed or found hard to learn at home

If you do feel worried about going back to school, it’s important to talk to somebody, like a parent, friend, teacher or supportive adult. It’s a challenging time for everybody and support is there for you. 

If you need extra help or support, you can contact:

  • Young Minds: a national charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of all children and young people under the age of 25
  • Off the Record: a charity that provides mental health support from counselling to group workshops and community based support groups for 11 to 25 year olds

Children with SEND

All children and young people will experience different emotions about returning to school or college. Children or young people with special educational needs and disability may need extra support to settle back into the school routine and get used to new rules.

Schools have put appropriate support in place for pupils with SEND, based on what they already know about each child’s needs. If there are things that have made a pupil with SEND more vulnerable because of coronavirus (COVID-19), they’ll consider this when planning for their return. 

You can also contact your child’s school to ask about any measures they've put place, so you can help your child understand them before they go back to school.

Resources for parents and carers

Clear visual instructions, such as social stories, are a good way to explain changes to children and young people with SEND, particularly those with autism. Social stories give short descriptions of a situation and specific information about what to expect and why, in an easy read or visual format

The National Autistic Society has more information about social stories and how they can help children with SEND make sense of returning to school. 

Bristol's SEND Local Offer website has guidance for supporting children with autism through coronavirus changes, including:

  • social stories and visual stories
  • a back to school checklist 
  • tips to help your child with coronavirus changes

Resources for children and young people with SEND

Bristol's SEND Local Offer website has guide to mental health and wellbeing for children and young people with SEND. It explains:

  • what mental health is
  • where to go for help