Coronavirus: Returning to education

Frequently Asked Questions

To support teachers, other school staff, parents, carers and children we have prepared some Frequently Asked Questions about different aspects of school provision.

These are based on current guidance as at the time of writing and will be updated as appropriate.

LAST UPDATE: 28 AUGUST 2020

School Layout, Social Distancing and Cleaning

How will schools be set up to enable social distancing?

All schools have completed a risk assessment that is specific to their school building and the number of children and young people who will be attending the site.

Schools will be set up to enable students and staff to social distance where it is possible. Some of the measures that schools may take are:

  • Putting markers on the floor

  • Making use of areas of the school that have existing markers

  • Making use of clearly marked one-way systems

  • Introducing clear entry and exit doors, and some no entry points

  • Daily talks with children and staff

How will classrooms be laid out?

All schools have completed a risk assessment that is specific to their school building and the number of children and young people who will be attending.

Some of the measures that schools may take to lay out classrooms safely are:

  • Organising class 'bubbles' of children

  • Changing the layout of classrooms

  • Providing one set of equipment for each child

  • More frequent cleaning of classrooms and equipment

What support will be available for the children that struggle with change?

Schools know their children and families well. They will be very well prepared to welcome children back and fully understand the trauma that some may have faced including bereavement. A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes with schools who have prepared work specially to settle all children back in. They will have plans in place to help vulnerable and unsettled children as well.

What are the plans for break and lunch time?

All schools have completed a risk assessment that is specific to their school building and the number of children and young people who will be attending the site.

Some of the measures that schools will take to enable social distancing during break times and lunch times may include:

  • Staggered lunches to aid safe movement, eg class / year group bubbles

  • Clear social distancing when collecting lunch

  • Students having their own individual table.

  • Additional supervision

  • Using outside space wherever possible

If children bring packed lunches will their sandwich boxes be safe to keep together or should these all be kept separate as well?

There is no government guidance published in relation to this. It is advised that the approach is the same as for other equipment with children keeping their own lunch box to avoid any risk of cross-contamination.

How will social distancing be possible when children are playing?

Schools will have undertaken a risk assessment and will use a variety of approaches including zoning of areas, staggered breaks and working through new systems with the children themselves.

How will social distancing be possible for young children or children with special needs who don’t understand that they can’t touch teachers and friends?

The risk assessments which schools have carried out will consider the needs and circumstances of individual children where appropriate. Staff will have received training and PPE where appropriate or necessary. Schools will be undertaking a lot of work with children to ensure they understand new systems and arrangements.

Schools are supported by very detailed government guidance relating to this.

How will schools manage the end of the school day? Will all children leave at once? How will social distancing be encouraged on the journey home?

Every school is different, some have many entrances and exits to enable this to be done quite easily, whilst others may have only one or two entrances and exits.

On their risk assessments schools will have determined a variety of measures which could include one-way systems and staggered starts and ends to the school day to ensure social distancing where possible. Parents should seek the advice of school staff about what arrangements are in place in their school.

Where appropriate, school crossing patrol duty times will be adjusted to accommodate staggered start and finish times.

How will schools discourage parents and carers from congregating at the beginning and end of the school day?

Schools will ensure that parents/carers will know the arrival and departure times and expectations of which gates and routes to use. Many schools will have one-way systems where this is possible. Parents/carers will be reminded not to congregate but should also be aware of the social distancing requirements for the general public as well.

What will the cleaning regime in schools be; are the right products being used to clean thoroughly?

Schools will be taking the following measures; it is important to note that these will only be effective when applied with other methods of infection control, for example hand-washing and social distancing.

Where classrooms are in use remove ALL unnecessary items to enable a complete clean daily at the end of each day/prior to the next days’ use.

It is recommended that toys and soft furnishings which cannot be sterilised are removed.

Ensure children are allocated a desk and avoid any mid-session change to an alternative seating area/position.

Additional cleaning to take place on surfaces and contact points during the break and at lunchtime in a classroom.

Dining must take place in the same manner – allocated space for a child, no re-occupation of the allocated space before cleaning.

Additional cleaning of washrooms would be recommended during the day, minimum after breaks and lunchtime.

How will the cleaning of each class be managed after each lesson and after each school day?

The Council’s school cleaning service has already been in discussion with several schools and where possible a flexible approach has been taken to the contract by moving a cleaner/cleaners from the scheduled before/after school time clean to a daytime availability to increase the possibility of cleaning between lessons. This will not always be possible and will be subject to an employee being able to move their contracted hours.

Attendance and Behaviour Management

The Department for Education expect all pupils and students to attend school full time from 1st September. All schools have completed a risk assessment that is specific to their site and school building. All schools have behaviour management policies which will also reflect additional rules in place and expectations.

What if students don’t follow the rules in place?

Students will receive plenty of guidance and advice to help everyone to stay safe. If a child or young person does not follow the guidance, each school’s behaviour management policy will apply.

Rotherham Parent Carers Forum has drafted a model Home School Agreement that schools can use to foster strong relationships between home and school.

Are students wearing uniform?

Parents should seek advice from the school.

What will the structure of the school day look like?

The school day is likely to be structured slightly differently to usual to accommodate necessary changes made to keep pupils and staff safe and support children who have had an extended period out of education.

How will the curriculum / timetable be designed to support children to catch up with work that they have missed?

Teachers will already have organised planning for the first week to undertake assessments with pupils in a variety of ways to suit the needs and ages of the pupils and will be focussing on the catch up of lost learning in line with DfE guidance.

If a student receives extra support in school will this still be available?

Pupil who have an Education Health & Care plan (EHCP)have an allocation of support time, this will continue as normal.

How will teachers and teaching assistants provide extra support to children and still maintain social distance?

Each school will have planned the layout of their classrooms and staffing ratios according to the needs of the pupils. Schools will continue to provide support in a variety of ways including additional time, use of resources, use of technology and usual support from additional adults but adhering to social distancing. Schools will have taken this into account when arranging their “bubbles” for each year group.

Will children and young people be with a teacher that they know?

This is always the intention in any school, but it cannot always be guaranteed. Schools will make every effort to ensure that pupils are happy and settled in classes and where staff are new will have already organised how this can be done always keeping things as similar as possible.

Will children be in a group with their friends?

It will be up to individual schools to organise their “bubbles” based on numbers, available staffing, accommodation sizes and availability and work to be carried out.

Will the timetable stay the same? How will lessons where it is harder to maintain social distancing work (for example PE)?

Schools will have completed a risk assessment to ensure that any activities can be safe but will also be following the government guidance where appropriate.

How will schools encourage children to return to school if they are reluctant to do so?

Many schools have been in regular contacting with parents/carers already about returning to school. The Government's expectation is that all pupils attend school from the start of the 2020/21 academic year.

Additional support is available for parents here.

Transport

How will students get to school?

Parents are asked to consider where possible taking their child to school themselves, this would be the most practical way to transport a student at this time.

All children and young people are encouraged to make active travel plans wherever possible – travelling to school on foot or cycling.

Public transport continues to be arranged in line with government guidance. Parents and pupils are advised to plan their journeys in advance and allow additional time as it may take longer to travel.

All public transport buses will be operating to ensure that pupils can travel safely to and from school. Some buses will be designated for student travel to and from school and as such will not be available to members of the public at certain times during the day.

A number of additional buses will operate to ensure pupils are able to access public transport to travel to and from school where required. 

Find out about details of the transport routes operating in September

Face covering must be worn on public transport to maintain a safer environment and prevent spreading the virus and the child or young person maybe refused entry on the bus if they fail to wear one.

Face coverings will also be required in other enclosed spaces where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. For example, at stations or interchanges.

Children under 11 don't need to wear a face covering and exemptions will apply to some passengers due to health conditions or disabilities. A list of exemptions on the Gov.uk website exemptions page:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Safer travel guidance for passengers

All drivers operating the public transport services to and from schools have had an enhanced DBS check.

If a child or young person is returning to school and usually accesses home to school transport provided by the Council, arrangements will be made in conjunction with schools and families as detailed below.

How will school transport be safe to use?

We are making some changes to transport, to support the return to school, which we have listed below.  We recognise that some children will find these changes difficult at first.  Please prepare your child for anything that might be unfamiliar by talking to them about these measures.  Social stories may also be helpful and are available via the Rotherham Send Local Offer website or National Autistic Society website.

Rotherham Send Local Offer

National Autistic Society

Seating Arrangements: For those being transported on minibuses; children will be seated from rear to front in the order they board the vehicle.  Wherever possible this seat will then become your child’s seat until further notice, and they will not be permitted to sit elsewhere on the vehicle.
 
Drivers and Passenger Assistants will be wearing face coverings: If your child requires one to one support and relies on facial expressions, or lip reading from a Passenger Assistant then this will be addressed on an individual basis.  Transport staff may also wear forms of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in some instances, such as aprons, visors, gloves and masks.
 
Vehicles will be deep cleaned daily. There will also be thorough cleaning in between each journey of regular touch points, including handles, seat belts, headrests and so on.
 
Vehicles will be ventilated with open windows or vents wherever possible.
 
If your child is taught independently and distanced from other children due to any complex needs or vulnerabilities we will consider their transport in partnership with the school, we have requested that schools contact us for any specific requirements.
 
If significant changes in transport have been required as schools re-open, the Travel Planning Team will endeavour to discuss these changes with families and schools or colleges.
 
If you have any concerns, please contact us.

What alternatives are available for children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

Personal transport budgets (PTBs) are available to families of pupils with an EHCP who qualify for transport assistance through the Local Authority, to allow them to make their own travel arrangements if they wish. The PTBs are based on a measured mileage from home to school and are reimbursed at 45p per mile.

It has been agreed to increase the usual amount of the PTB offered to families during the pandemic so that they will now cover the cost of transport for the journey to school and then home again afterwards, and the journey to collect the child in the afternoon and home again afterwards.

Contact us to express your interest in a PTB.

How parents and carers can assist with transport

We would like to work in partnership with you to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission on transport. Therefore, as a parent/carer you can also support the return to school and we ask that you please do the following:

  • We would like to work in partnership with you to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission on transport. Therefore, as a parent/carer you can also support the return to school and we ask that you please do the following,
  • If anyone in your household, or your child, displays COVID-19 symptoms then please ensure they do not use transport.
  • Please engage with the test and trace system in line with Government Guidance.
  • Please ensure you inform us, and the child’s school as soon as possible, if your child or anyone from your household tests positive for COVID-19.
  • If a child develops symptoms at school we will ask that you collect your own child, as accessing transport will not be possible.
  • Please ensure your child wash/sanitizes their hands prior to boarding transport and again when they come home.
  • Face coverings are not mandatory on our transport as those with an Education and Healthcare Plan (EHCP) are exempt from wearing them.  However, if your child is 11+ and you would like them to wear a face covering you must ensure they are comfortable with fitting and adjusting their own face covering.  Transport Staff will not be able to assist with this.
  • Please ensure face coverings are disposed of appropriately after use, or those that are re-usable are washed each day.
 

Health and Wellbeing

Will students, families and staff receive support if they are worried and anxious?

Each school has made arrangements to support students, families and staff who feel worried and anxious.

There are specific resources that have been prepared by the Educational Psychology Service, and are available for everyone to access here: https://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/download/245/training-to-support-staff-through-the-covid-19-crisis-bringing-safety-and-hope

Is there support available for young people who are worried about returning to school to help them prepare?

There will be plenty of support available to children, young people, parents and staff before they return to school.

Many resources have been added to the Rotherham Local Offer – these will be relevant to all children, not just those with special educational needs.

Another online resource has been developed in partnership with NHS colleagues and the Educational Psychology service:

If your child has a specific need, please discuss this with someone at your child’s school.

If a child or young person becomes stressed or anxious in school how will this be managed?

This will be managed in the usual way as it would at any time. School staff know their children very well and will be able to see the signs of distress; they will already have thought about how they will manage these situations. There may be more liaison with parents/carers then in a normal situation should a child become very distressed or anxious.

Schools have been preparing well for this return and have amended their curriculum to include support for pupils who may have experienced trauma. They can also access other professionals if necessary, e.g. Educational Psychologists

Will the virus be discussed in school?

Schools will determine how this will be done depending on the age of the pupils. They will have rehearsed how and what is appropriate to ensure that social distancing and the changes in school can be put in a correct context.

How will other children be reassured that there is no longer a risk so that there is no social exclusion or bullying?

Schools will have well planned systems for welcoming all children and are used to supporting children who have been off school ill. There will be work through the curriculum and through Personal Social and Health Education to ensure children understand.

Inclusion

If my child needs extra help – with learning or care needs, will this still be available?

The planned return to schools has included planning around the needs of individual children.

Any variations to current Education, Health and Care plans or managing medical needs at school care plans will need to be discussed and agreed by schools and parents.

There may need to be changes to specific plans, but everyone needs to understand what they are, why they are happening and agree that they are necessary.

If you are worried about changes to your child’s help in school, please ring the school and discuss these changes with the school SENCO.

Will support still be provided by the Autism Team?

The Autism Team will continue to provide advice, support and outreach to schools and will plan their interventions around the needs of the individual children requiring a service.

Will my child get learning support if we opt to stay home until there is a vaccine or minimal chance of catching the virus?

All arrangements in relation to educating children at home need to be made in partnership with their schools so that everyone is clear about the plans for children.

Will nurture groups still be running?

Individual schools will need to plan to meet the needs of their children. If your child is in a nurture group, you will need to ring your child’s school to understand what arrangements they are making and take advice about your child’s needs.

People with LD were on the original vulnerable list from the government. Will they be safe to return to school with other children?

School, in partnership with parents, children and the Local Authority will consider if it is right for each child to return to school at this time, using a risk assessment document.

If it is agreed that the best option for a child is to continue learning at home because it is safer, there will be no requirement for them to return.

When will the therapies that are delivered in school start again in school?

Schools and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group are working together to begin to reintroduce therapies in schools. To understand what this means for your child you will need to contact their school.

If a child uses techniques to learn such as moving around the classroom how will this be managed when social distancing is required?

Schools will plan for the needs of your child. They will discuss with you what might need to be different and how to manage this.

What support is in place for my child’s mental and physical health taking into account their addition needs?

Schools are being supported by the Education Psychology service who have developed support and training to help schools to understand the emotional health and wellbeing needs of children returning to education.

The 0-19 service and Special School Nurses are involved in the plans to support children returning to school and will offer support to schools to meet children and young people’s physical health needs.

If you are worried about the support for your child please ring your child’s school where they will be able to discuss the specific needs of your child and the arrangements that are in place to support them.

Public Health Policy and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Will staff and students need to wear PPE?

From 1st September new advice will apply to the use of face coverings by staff and pupils in some schools and to learners in further education.  The guidance is for schools and other education institutions that teach years 7 and above in England.

There is separate guidance for early years and childcare providers and schools with children in year 6 and below, where the majority of staff will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres.

Children, young people and students whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs should continue to receive their care in the same way

If a child, young person or other learner becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home; in these instances a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn.

What PPE will be available for members of staff who have to do intimate care?

The Council has provided a PPE starter pack for all schools including masks, gloves, aprons and bags for disposal. The starter pack included a low number of items to support schools in cases where a child becomes symptomatic on site.

DfE communication August 2020: Schools and further education institutions to recieve delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE):
Schools and further education institutions will shortly receive a delivery of a small amount of personal protective equipment (PPE). This one-off distribution of PPE will contain clinical face masks, aprons, gloves and visors, as well as the hand sanitiser needed to put on and take off PPE. The PPE is being provided free of charge by the Department of Health and Social Care to help build resilience across the education sector to respond to any suspected cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) arising in schools and colleges. Deliveries via Royal Mail will begin on 26 August. Visors will be sent as a separate delivery from the rest of the PPE.

As set out in the guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children's social care settings, PPE is only needed if a child, young person or other learner becomes ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms in school or college, and only then if a dis-tance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. The symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

If schools wish to purchase additional PPE they should use their local supply chain. Procurement do’s and don’ts are being prepared.

Will non-teaching staff in school be wearing mask?

The guidance is that there is no requirement to wear a mask in a school environment for regular school activities unless specified in education settings where Year 7 and above are educated and face coverings should be worn by adults (staff and visitors) and pupils when moving around indoors, such as corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

As in the general approach, it will not usually be necessary to wear face coverings in the classroom, where protective measures already mean risks are lower and they may inhibit teaching and learning. View the guidance here.

  • In some specific situations, for example some catering work, masks are considered to create an additional hazard.

Would it be safe for children to wear facemasks for long period?

Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education establishment is not recommended in all settings. Face coverings may be beneficial for short periods indoors where Year 7 and above are educated and face coverings should be worn by adults (staff and visitors) and pupils when moving around indoors, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

As in the general approach, it will not usually be necessary to wear face coverings in the classroom, where protective measures already mean the risks are lower, and they may inhibit teaching and learning. See the official guidance here.

There is separate guidance for early years and childcare providers and schools with children in year 6 and below where the majority of staff will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres.

How will good hand hygiene be encouraged in school?

All schools will encourage good hand hygiene. A programme of training has been provided to support school staff with this, designed by local infection control specialists and children’s nurses.

If a teacher or a child becomes symptomatic in school, what will happen? What is the guidance in relation to social distancing?

Ensuring that pupils, staff and other adults do not come into the school if they have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or have tested positive in at least the last 10 days, and ensuring anyone developing those symptoms during the school day is sent home, are essential actions to reduce the risk in schools and further drive down transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). View the guidance here.

If staff, young people or children develop coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at school they must be sent home

If a child, young person or other learner becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home, a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn

Schools are organising students and staff into smaller groups (these might be called bubbles or zones and may be class / form, year groups etc, depending on the individual schools approach, so that, should someone become ill with the virus a limited number of people will need to self-isolate.

If a family member is shielding on medical advice due to being within the extremely vulnerable group, will a child need to return to school?

If a child, young person or staff member lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable guidance, it is advised they only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, they are able to understand and follow those instructions. This may not be possible for very young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing. If stringent social distancing cannot be adhered to, we do not expect those individuals to attend. They should be supported to learn or work at home.

View the guidance here.

Research suggests that children are carriers of the virus and may pass this to school staff; will symptomatic staff self-isolate?

Statement from the UK Chief Medical Officer 
"We are confident in the extensive evidence that there is an exceptionally small risk of children of primary or secondary school age dying from COVID-19. The in-fection fatality rate (proportion of those who are infected who die) for those aged 5 to 14 is estimated at 14 per million, lower than for most seasonal flu infections. Every death of a child is a tragedy but COVID-19 deaths in children and teenagers are fortunately extremely rare and almost all deaths are in children with signifi-cant pre-existing health conditions.

"We are confident that there is clear evidence of a very low rate of severe disease in children of primary and secondary school ages compared to adults, even if they catch COVID-19. The percentage of symptomatic cases requiring hospitalisation is estimated to be 0.1% for children aged 0 to 9 and 0.3% among those aged 10 to 19, compared to a hospitalisation rate of over 4% in the UK for the general population. Most of these children make a rapid recovery.’’

  • staff, young people and children should stay at home if they develop coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms to avoid spreading infection to others. Otherwise, those who are eligible or required to attend should attend education or work as normal

  • if staff, young people or children develop coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at school they must be sent home

If anyone has any of the symptoms they should self-isolate at home for 10 days. Further guidance is available here.

How will families know if they’ve had the virus?

Everyone in the United Kingdom with symptoms is eligible for a free NHS coronavirus test. You can arrange a test here, online or telephone 119.

Will body temperature monitoring be in place in schools?

Parents, carers and settings do not need to take children’s temperatures every morning. The government advises that routine testing of an individual’s temperature is not a reliable method for identifying coronavirus.

Will children be tested? Will teachers be tested and if so, how frequently?

Everyone in the United Kingdom with symptoms is eligible for coronavirus tests. Arrange a test here online or telephone 119.

Parents and Children

Will I be able to come into classroom when I drop my child off at school?

Each school will have their own arrangements according to the risk assessment but this is unlikely. Most schools are restricting the number of people in the building to reduce the risk factors and to adhere to social distancing.

Will I be fined if I keep my child at home?

Rotherham Schools follow the Early Help School Attendance Matters Pathway. This pathway enables support to children and families to assist with improving the child’s attendance but if attendance does not improve, enforcement action may be taken.

How can I support my child with returning to school?

Schools are publishing to parents the new arrangements, some of this is via letter home, e-mail or on the school website. Parents/carers can help by discussing this with their child and reassuring them about the changes.

I would like to understand the school day so that I can provide my child with a detailed visual chart to lessen his anxiety related to change of routine?

For a detailed timetable it would be better to contact the individual school concerned so that this is accurate as each school will be different.

Teachers and School Staff

Will all staff be expected on site every day?

In most cases staff will be on site – either teaching their own subject or supporting students or department areas.

Will teachers and other school staff, be entitled to sick pay for an absence caused by coronavirus (COVID-19), including the need to self-isolate if a member of their household has displayed symptoms?

Arrangements for teachers and school staff sick pay will be made in line with their current sickness absence policy.

Should schools continue to pay supply teachers and other contingent workers?

Schools will continue to receive their budgets for the coming year as usual. This will ensure that they are able to continue to pay for staff and meet their other regular financial commitments. It is expected that schools will continue to pay staff they employ directly in the usual fashion, and correspondingly not furlough them.

It is expected that schools will draw first on their existing staff to maintain necessary provision, but schools may continue to need supply teachers and other temporary workers. Schools and employment businesses (agencies) should continue to liaise on any potential need to ensure workers are available where required.

Schools should have regard to the guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

What support is available to supply teachers, and other temporary workers, who are not currently engaged by schools?

The support available for supply teachers and other temporary workers will depend on their employment status and individual circumstances. If you are not directly employed by a school or local authority, but are an employee, agency worker, or on a zero hours contract, you should speak with your employer in the first instance, and refer to the guidance for furloughing employees and workers.

Employers should refer to the guidance for furloughing employees and workers.

If you are self-employed, you should refer to the guidance for the self-employed income support scheme.

If you are unsure on what type of worker you are, you can read employment status advice and guidance.