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 in September. They were previously closed to many pupils because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Schools have been working hard to make sure they can reopen safely. This means that schools will look and feel different to how they did before. Every school will be different, but there might be:

  • new classroom layouts, such as all the desks facing forwards
  • 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
  • new timetables
  • increased hygiene and handwashing
  • rules about wearing face coverings in certain parts of school, such as corridors or communal areas

These differences might make it daunting for pupils and their parents, carers or guardians, particularly those who were shielding or are used to being at home. You can talk to your child’s school to find out about the changes they’ve made or if you have any concerns.

GOV.UK has more guidance on schools reopening

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.

Parents, carers and guardians

To help your prepare your child 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: be aware of any road changes, walk, cycle or scoot if you can, 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

Councillor Anna Keen, teacher and cabinet lead for education and skills, shares her advice to parents, carers and guardians who have children going back to school in this video:

Resources to help you and your children

Plan your journey to school

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

The first week back at school will be all about getting used to the changes at your school, so it’s important you go on your first day. 

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. 

Watch a video about staying safe at school and what to do if you feel worried or ill.

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

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 or different rules.

Schools are putting 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 see if they can explain the new rules that will be in 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

The Down's Syndrome Association has information to help parents or carers of children with Down's Syndrome prepare for going back to school.

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