Schools and learning FAQs

Last updated: 13 October 2020

Information for staff

Will schools be reopening on the 1 June?

A date that has been greatly publicised is Monday 1 June 2020. This is a date that the government has set as the earliest that schools may open to more pupils. It is not set in stone; there are five tests that need to be satisfied before this will become the date that school and settings may begin to accommodate more pupils, including the rate of Covid-19 infection being low enough (the R number).

There are many factors that school and setting leaders are considering to ensure that education settings can be safely opened to additional pupils. We support school and setting leaders to make these decisions to fit each unique situation.

What do schools need to do to prepare for the planned wider opening from the 1 June at the earliest?

We know that there is considerable pressure on school and setting leaders when trying to prepare for the reopening their school to a larger number of pupils.

It is important that schools communicate with parents and carers their plans to make schools as safe as possible, and what they need to do when they arrive at school. We appreciate the hard work all school leaders and staff are putting in to support the phased reopening of schools.

Will staff have PPE?

Public Health England and the DfE have advised that use of PPE by staff in education settings is not recommended, and including the wearing of a face covering. The advice for schools, colleges and childcare settings is to follow steps on social distancing, handwashing and other hygiene measures, and cleaning of surfaces.

While the national guidance recognises that social distancing can be difficult to maintain with children, and particularly young children and those with special educational needs, any advantages of wearing PPE are reduced through the likelihood of the same children touching the PPE, which increases the risk of cross contamination.

Schools will be provided with an emergency supply of PPE by Southampton City Council for use should a child become symptomatic with Covid-19 symptoms while at school. All schools will have received an emergency supply of PPE by the close of Monday 1 June.

Which staff should not attend education settings in person?

Please be aware that national guidance differentiates between those who are extremely clinically vulnerable (and are advised to “shield”) and those who are clinically vulnerable. It is important that you check the guidance to make sure you are following the most appropriate guidance.

Those who are strongly advised not attend education/work environments are:

  • If you are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group
  • If you have received a letter advising you to shield

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are advised not to work outside the home. We are strongly advising people, including education staff, who are clinically extremely vulnerable (those with serious underlying health conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus and have been advised by their clinician or through a letter) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe. Staff in this position are advised not to attend work. Please see COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable for further advice.

Should staff that are clinically vulnerable attend work?

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are advised not to work outside the home. Read COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable for more advice.

Clinically vulnerable individuals, who are at high risk of severe illness (for example, people with some pre-existing conditions as set out in the Staying at home and away from others (social distancing) guidance) have been advised to take extra care in observing social distancing and should work from home where possible. Education and childcare settings should endeavor to support this, for example by asking staff to support remote education, carry out lesson planning or other roles which can be done from home. If clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) individuals cannot work from home, they should be offered the safest available on-site roles, staying 2 metres away from others wherever possible, although the individual may choose to take on a role that does not allow for this distance if they prefer to do so. If they have to spend time within two metres of other people, settings must carefully assess and discuss with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

Guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) provides advice on pregnant women who work in a public facing role, and which staff are advised to consider when undertaking their risk assessment to support home/school working. The RCOG advise that if a member of staff is in their third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant), or have an underlying health condition (such as heart or lung disease), they should work from home where possible, avoid contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact. They also provide advice for those in their first and second trimester. See RCOG guidance on Coronavirus infection and pregnancy.

Should household members of those that are shielding or clinically vulnerable attend school?

If a member of staff lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, they can attend their education or childcare setting.

If a member staff member lives in a household with someone who is clinically extremely 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. See: Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.

If you are concerned that the person you live with is clinically extremely vulnerable but have not received a letter advising that they shield, they should contact their GP.

Who is clinically extremely vulnerable?

  1. Solid organ transplant recipients.
  2. People with specific cancers:
    • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • People with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  3. People with severe respiratory conditions* including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD)
  4. People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  6. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

NHS guidance elaborates on this.

  • For asthma, those who have been prescribed a LABA or LABA/ICS or leukotriene over the past six months AND who have had four or more prescriptions for prednisolone over the six months
  • For COPD, those patients who are prescribed “triple therapy” inhalers and/or roflumilast

Who is clinically vulnerable?

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds)
  • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions, treatments like chemotherapy, or medicines such as steroid tablets
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant women

Can I direct staff to come into school?

It is natural that some staff will be worried about coming into school even if the risks for them are very low. You will know your staff best and so will be in the best position to work out how to proceed in individual cases. We are working in an unprecedented context, and more reassurance and discussion than usual may be required. It is always best, if at all possible, to work out a sensible way forward in individual cases that acknowledges any specific anxieties but which also enables the school’s responsibilities to be effectively discharged. If you need support in finding a solution, speak to your local authority, trust or HR provider.

What does the school need to do if a child becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms while at school?

If a child becomes unwell with symptoms of Covid-19, they must be sent home and advised to follow the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection. If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on the age of the child and 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 two 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. The bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.

PPE should be worn by staff caring for the child while they await collection if a distance of two metres cannot be maintained (such as for a young child or a child with complex needs).

If a member of staff has helped a pupil who was unwell with COVID-19 symptoms (a new continuous cough or a high temperature or anosmia - loss or change of normal sense of smell or taste), they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves or the child subsequently tests positive for COVID-19. They should wash their hands thoroughly with soap for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell. Cleaning the affected area with disinfectant after someone with symptoms has left will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in a setting?

When a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days. Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus and are encouraged to get tested in this scenario.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group (i.e. where groups are being formed to reduce any cross infection) within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.

National guidance about what to do if someone is unwell at an educational or childcare setting is available in the guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.

How can I reduce risk to everyone?

You could consider steps including:

  • How you might stagger start and end times between year groups by a short period to reduce volume at the entrance
  • Ensuring parents and carers are aware of recommendations on transport to and from school, which means reducing any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport where possible (for example, by walking or cycling to school) and avoiding peak times
  • Using signage to guide parents and carers about where and when they should drop off and pick up their children - you will want to communicate this to parents in advance
  • Working out arrangements for breaks or play times so that ideally only one group of maximum 15 children is in the same play area at any one time
  • Ensuring that staff remain at a safe distance from each other at lunchtime or during breaks (including how to manage if your school has a small staff room or other staff areas)
  • Arranging for assemblies to take place with individual groups in their allocated classroom spaces rather than bringing children from different classes together into one hall or large space

You could also consider working with your catering supplier and kitchen staff on arrangements for lunchtime. Children in reception and year 1 should have the option of a free meal under the universal infant free school meals policy. Meals should be available for all pupils in school, and these should also be free of charge for pupils that qualify for benefits-related free school meals. With your kitchen staff, you consider how meals will be prepared and served safely. Plans will need to be in place to ensure food supplies are in place for when children return.

Consider arrangements for lunch (and any ‘snack’ times for early years) so that children do not mix with children from other groups – this could mean having several lunch sittings or serving lunch in more than one location, including if appropriate in a classroom, or asking your caterers to look at other flexible ways of giving pupils access to lunch such that it can be eaten in the small group setting (for example taking cold or ‘packed’ lunches to children in the areas they are in for the day).

Should I communicate with parents?

You should communicate with parents to make sure they know:

  • Whether their child will be able to attend from the week commencing 1 June
  • What protective steps you are taking to make the school a low-risk place for their child
  • What you need them to do (such as on drop off and collection)

A model letter will be available shortly from the DfE on preparing for the wider opening of schools from 1 June, which you can use if useful and adapt as you wish.

You may also want to consider senior leaders calling parents in eligible groups to discuss with them directly, where this is feasible.

How can I support pupils who are anxious?

You could consider:

  • Opportunities for children to talk about their experiences of the past few weeks
  • Opportunities for one-to-one conversations with trusted adults where this may be supportive
  • Some refocused lessons on relevant topics, for example, mental wellbeing or staying safe
  • Pastoral activity, such as positive opportunities to renew and develop friendships and peer groups
  • Other enriching developmental activities

What if parents do not observe social distancing at the school gate? Is it my job to enforce social distancing outside the school gates?

It is likely to be helpful to parents for you to explain clearly what the arrangements are for the start and end of the school day, and decisions you make about this should allow for the need for social distancing outside the school. Clear communication, including if possible or appropriate, through signage, can be helpful. Reminders may be useful as well from time to time.


Information on testing

Who can be tested for COVID-19 infection?

Any member of the public aged 5 years and over who has COVID-19 symptoms can now be tested. In addition, children under 5 years old in England who have symptoms of coronavirus and live with an essential worker can be tested (this test must be performed by a parent or guardian). In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can only get a test for your child if they are aged 5 or over.

Current guidance about testing.

If you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus, you can ask for a test through the NHS website.

When should I be tested?

You need to have the test in the first five days of having symptoms. It's best to ask for the test as soon as possible, and in the first three days, as it may take a day or two to arrange.

How do I get tested?

Symptomatic teaching staff, household members, and (parents of) children should use the NHS website to secure testing.

You will have the option of taking the test at home or at a drive-through testing site. Some test sites cannot do tests for children aged five to 11 years. If a test site in your area cannot test children under 12 years old, you'll get a warning when you're booking the test, and will need to book a home test.

If you opt for a drive-through testing site you must book before arriving at the site. The facilities are drive through, therefore you will need to use your own car or, if you are unable to drive yourself, a member of your household will need to drive you. If you live alone and cannot drive a home test will be made available.

How will I receive my results?

Your test results will be emailed to the email address provided at registration.

If I test positive what do I need to do?

You should follow the advice from the NHS which will accompany your results.


Information for parents and carers

What guidance is available?

We know this is a very difficult and worrying time for you and your child. The Department for Education (DfE) have published some guidance for parents and carers which contains answers to some of the questions you may have. We have also provided guidance about some common questions below.

When will my child return to school?

Education and childcare settings are already open to priority groups.

From the week starting 1 June 2020 at the earliest, education settings will be asked to welcome the following children:

  • Nursery and early years
  • Reception
  • Year 1
  • Year 6
  • Some face-to-face contact with Year 10 and Year 12 students due to take key exams next year (or Year 11 students if there is no year 12)

Phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups will happen from 1 June 2020 depending on the virus risk assessment at:

  • Special needs schools
  • Special needs post-16 years of age institutions
  • Hospital schools

The Government would like all primary year groups to return to school before the summer holidays, for a month if possible. This will depend on whether or not the science shows that it is safe to bring more children back to education settings, and including the rate of COVID-19 infection being low enough (the R number).

Should my child attend school if they have symptoms of COVID-19?

No child with coronavirus symptoms should attend an education setting. Symptoms of coronavirus include high temperature or new continuous cough or anosmia (loss of, or change to, taste or smell). Your child and household should follow the self-isolation guidance.

This means your child should self-isolate and not leave your house for seven days or until they test negative for coronavirus. Anyone who lives in the house with your child should self-isolate for 14 days, or for 7 days after they start having symptoms. If your child tests negative then they can return to the education setting and the household members can end their self-isolation.

My child lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable. Should they attend school if they reopen on, or after the 1 June?

Please be aware the Government makes a differentiation between those who are clinically vulnerable and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The current advice from the DfE is that your child can attend school if they live with someone who is clinically vulnerable, including someone who is pregnant.

If your child lives with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, 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, it is not expected that those individuals attend. They should be supported to learn or work at home.

We would encourage you to speak to your child’s head-teacher about any concerns you have and work with your child’s school to put a risk assessment in place. An individual risk assessment should be conducted before the most appropriate place of care is determined. This will need to take into account the need for continued attendance at the education or childcare setting, the risk posed by non-attendance, the alternative care provision available and the risk to the person in the household posed by the child continuing to attend.

My child is clinically vulnerable, or clinically extremely vulnerable: can my child attend school if the planned reopening goes ahead on, or after 1 June?

A small minority of children will fall into the category of being clinically vulnerable, and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.

Children who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions have been advised to shield. It is not expected that these children attend school or college, and they should continue to be supported at home as much as possible.

My child is in one of the year groups planned to go back to school on, or after 1 June and I am worried about sending them in. Will the school fine me if I choose not to send my child to school?

The DfE are encouraging children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to attend school when they reopen unless they are self-isolating or there are other reasons for absence (such as shielding due to health conditions making them clinically extremely vulnerable).

If your child is unable to attend, you should let your child’s school know as usual so they can discuss with you. We understand this is a very difficult time and the DfE have advised parents will not be fined at this time.

My child is in one of the year groups planned to go back to school on 1 June and they are worried about going back to school. What can I do?

We understand this may be a worrying time for children, and they may be anxious about going back to school. We would encourage parents to make the school aware of your child’s worries, as it is important they know so they can support your child before they return and also when they are in school.

The type of support needed will be different for every child, this is why open communication with your school is so important, so your child can get the right support for them.

How will the school be made safe for more children coming back?

Your school leaders and staff are working very hard to make sure settings will be safe for children and staff. This includes ensuring that social distancing measures are in place, and there are reduced class sizes of no more than 15 (primary school) pupils per class. Other arrangements could include staggered break times, more outside time (while social distancing) and staggered break times. Your school leaders are also working hard to ensure social distancing is in place when you drop off and pick up your child, and classes do not mix during the day.

Will my child have to wear PPE?

Currently the advice being given to schools is that children and staff are not required to wear PPE.

What will my child need to do when they go to school?

Your child should be aware of how they can keep themselves and others safe though social distancing and good hygiene measures. There are a number of websites that provide information and resources to support discussions with children on coronavirus, including on how viruses are spread and how they can keep themselves and others safe through good practice such as hand hygiene:

Everyone should regularly wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser. Hands should then be dried thoroughly. This should occur during the day but especially

  • On arriving at school
  • Before eating or drinking
  • After sneezing or coughing

Children should follow ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’. Coughs and sneezes should be caught in tissues where possible. These should then be put in the rubbish bin and hands washed.

The guidance does not recommend wearing face coverings or face masks in schools or other education settings unless your child previously routinely wore them due to health reasons.

Children and young people should walk or cycle to their educational settings where possible, using usual safety equipment (e.g. helmet), or travel by car.

Children who are self-isolating because they have symptoms, or someone they live with has symptoms, should not attend and follow the stay at home guidance.