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What parents and carers need to know about returning to school in September 2021

August 2021

Main messages

From 19 July the government continues to manage the risk of serious illness from the spread of the virus. This marks a new phase in the government’s response to the pandemic, moving away from stringent restrictions on everyone’s day-to-day lives, towards advising people on how to protect themselves and others, alongside targeted interventions to reduce risk.

As COVID-19 becomes a virus that we learn to live with, there is now an imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education - particularly given that the direct clinical risks to children are extremely low, and every adult has been offered a first vaccine and the opportunity for 2 doses by mid-September.

The key messages from this guidance are:

  • nationally, education and childcare settings are open, and attendance is mandatory (for schools) and strongly encouraged (at childminders, nurseries and colleges
  • the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Healthhas made it clear that the overwhelming majority of children and young people still have no symptoms or very mild illness only
  • continuing to take regular rapid tests will help you to identify infections early and reduce transmission
  • School will no longer trace close contacts - close contacts will still be identified via NHS Test and Trace
  • children and young people aged under 18 years 6 months who usually attend school, and have been identified as a close contact should continue to attend school as normal
  • your child does not need to remain in a consistent group (‘bubble’)
  • the government is removing the requirement to wear face coverings in law but expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.

Attendance and remote education

Attendance is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age. This means it’s your legal duty as a parent to send your child to school regularly if they are registered at one.

If you have concerns about your child attending, you should discuss these with school.

All clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people should attend their education setting unless they are one of the very small number of children and young people under paediatric or other specialist care who have been advised by their clinician or other specialist not to attend.

Further information is available in the guidance on supporting pupils at school with medical conditions.

Remote education if your child cannot attend school or college


From the end of the summer term, all state-funded schools should provide remote education for school-aged children who are unable to attend school due to following government guidance or law relating to COVID-19 (for example if they need to self-isolate, or if they have tested positive but are well enough to learn from home).

Schools should provide remote education equivalent in length to the core teaching your child would usually get in school.

You can find out about our school’s remote education offer on their website or by contacting school directly.

Guidance is available to help you support your child while they are learning from home.

You should talk to your child’s teacher or headteacher if you have concerns about the amount or quality of the remote education they are receiving. Schools should work collaboratively with you to put in place reasonable adjustments so that pupils with SEND can successfully access remote education.


Help to get online

Contact school if your child:

  • does not have access to a device
  • needs support with internet access for remote education

Schools has been allocated a number of devices and are distributing these to the children who need them most.


Online safety

Talk to your child about staying safe online and encourage them to talk to you if they come across something worrying.

The guidance for parents and carers to keep children safe online explains how to talk about online safety issues.

The guidance about staying safe online includes information on setting up age appropriate controls, on-line fraud, privacy settings, and screen time recommendations.

Helping make schools and as safe as possible

Schools has our own health and safety risk assessments and keeps them under review.

As part of this, there are certain control measures that the government has asked nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges to continue to maintain to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in their setting. Please look here for our latest ‘Risk Assessment’.

Regional and local safety measures

All nurseries, schools and colleges will have outbreak management plans in place outlining how they would operate if there was an outbreak in the setting or local area. Central government may also offer local areas of particular concern an enhanced response package to help limit increases in transmission.

The contingency framework provides more information on the principles of managing local outbreaks of COVID-19 in education and childcare settings. Local authorities, directors of public health and PHE health protection teams may recommend measures described in the contingency framework in individual education and childcare settings – or a small cluster of settings – as part of their outbreak management responsibilities.

Mixing and ‘bubbles’

It is no longer recommend that it is necessary to keep children in consistent groups (‘bubbles’) or to keep groups apart as much as possible. This means that bubbles will not need to be used in school from the autumn term.  We will be introducing this gradually at Bryn St Peter’s, whilst Wigan still remains ‘red’,

This means that assemblies and larger group activities can resume.

If there is an outbreak in school, or if school is in an enhanced response area, we might be advised that it is necessary to reintroduce bubbles or to keep groups apart for a temporary period to reduce mixing between groups.

The government encourages you to follow any requests from school.

Face coverings

The government has removed the requirement to wear face coverings in law but expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don’t normally meet. This includes public transport and dedicated transport to school or college.

If there is an outbreak in school, or if school is in an enhanced response area, we may advise that face coverings should temporarily be worn in communal areas by staff and visitors, unless exempt.

Tracing and self-isolation

From 19 July, as with positive cases in any other setting, NHS Test and Trace will work with the positive case and/or their parents to identify close contacts. This is likely to be a small number of individuals who would be most at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of the close contact. As parents or carers, you may be contacted to help with identifying close contacts.

Individuals are not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, and any of the following apply:

  • they are fully vaccinated
  • they are below the age of 18 years and 6 months
  • they have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
  • they are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

Instead, NHS Test and Trace will inform affected individuals, children or their parents or carers that they have been in close contact with a positive case, and advise them to take a PCR test. We would encourage all individuals to take a PCR test if advised to do so.

Children and young people aged under 18 years 6 months who usually attend school who have been identified as a close contact should continue to attend school as normal. They do not need to wear a face covering within the school, but it is expected and recommended that these are worn when travelling on public or dedicated transport. Further information is available in the stay at home: guidance for households.

If there is a substantial increase in the number of positive cases in school, or if school is in an enhanced response area, you might be advised that some control measures need to be temporarily reintroduced.

Symptoms and testing

Testing remains important in reducing the risk of transmission of infection within nurseries, schools and colleges. Continuing to take regular rapid tests will help you to identify infections early and reduce transmission.

School staff will commence testing from 3 working days before the start of term. 

Positive rapid lateral flow test results

Anyone with a positive test result will need to:

  • self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance(if they test positive at school, you should arrange for them to be collected)
  • book a further test(a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test) to confirm the result, whether the test was done at home, school or college

Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the individual should continue to self-isolate.

If the PCR test is taken within the 2 days following the positive LFD result, and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test and your child can return to nursery, childminders, school or college, as long as they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms.

If you have any questions about the asymptomatic testing programme, speak to school.

If you suspect your child has coronavirus or has a positive test

Do not send your child to their nursery, childminder, school, college or to an entry test for a selective school if:

You should follow public health advice on when to self-isolate and what to do.

School can refuse your child attendance if they have symptoms, and in their reasonable judgement, it is necessary to protect other pupils and staff from possible infection with COVID-19. Our decision will carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and current public health advice.

Financial support to care for a child who is self-isolating

You may be eligible for a one-off Test and Trace Support Payment of £500 from your local authority if your child has been advised to self-isolate by school (even where they have not been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace).

To be eligible, you must be either:

  • the parent or carer of a child that is aged 15 and under
  • the parent or carer of a young person aged 16 to 25 with an education health and care plan

You also need to:

  • be on a low income
  • be unable to work from home
  • be taking time off work to care for a child who is self-isolating
  • be living in England
  • meet the eligibility criteria

You do not require an NHS Test and Trace Account ID number in order to claim.

Further information on claiming financial support under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme is available.

Ask school to provide you with a letter, detailing your child’s name and the dates of their isolation period. You will need to use this letter as supporting evidence as part of your application. You will not be able to apply for financial support without this letter.

When you apply to the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme your local authority will contact school to verify the information you’ve supplied. This includes your child’s:

  • name
  • age
  • dates of self-isolation

This is a standard check against fraudulent claims, and may take place before or after a payment is made.

Assessments, awards and results

Assessments in primary schools

The government are planning for a full programme of primary assessments to take place in the 2021 to 2022 academic year. This will include the introduction of the statutory Reception Baseline Assessment and Multiplication Tables Check.

Exams and assessments for the next academic year

It is the government’s intention that exams will go ahead in summer 2022.

Education recovery

The government has announced a number of programmes and activities to support children and young people to make up their learning as a result of the pandemic.

Contact school to find out more about the support that is available.

Elective home education

If you are considering home education due to concerns around safety, you can discuss your concerns with school, to see what safety measures have been put in place.

Schools are not required to provide any support to parents who have withdrawn their child for elective home education. Local authorities can provide support and guidance to families who elect to home educate but this is discretionary.

For further information, refer to the guidance on elective home education.

Holidays and travel abroad

You should plan your holidays within school and college holidays as usual. Avoid seeking permission to take your children out of school during term time. You should make sure any travel is in line with national travel guidance.

Keep in mind that you and your children may need to self-isolate when you return from a trip overseas. Any self-isolation should also fall within the school or college holidays.

Where your child is abroad and unable to return, local authorities and schools should continue to work with you to understand your circumstances and your plans to return. They should encourage you to return where you are able and it is safe. A pupil’s name can only lawfully be deleted from the admission register on the grounds prescribed in regulation 8 of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 as amended.

Where able, schools should provide remote education for pupils unable to return from abroad due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, for the period they are abroad.

All pupils travelling to England should adhere to government travel advice. You should plan for any required quarantine of self-isolation to avoid any impact on your child’s education.

The red, amber, green classification of countries can be changed at any time and at short notice and you will need to respond to the latest rules on international travel, even if you have already left the UK, while also minimising the impact on your child’s education.

School food

School will continue to provide free meals for eligible students, including those who are at home during term time due to COVID-19.

The guidance on providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak outlines how and when children eligible for benefits-related free school meals should be supported at home.

Mental health and wellbeing

Some children and young people may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, stress or low mood as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support for children and parents

Encourage your child to talk to you or their teacher if they are feeling anxious or stressed.

Online resources to help you support your child with mental health and wellbeing, include:

Public Health England’s (PHE) advice and guidance for parents and professionals on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing includes actions you can take to support your child and emphasises the importance of taking 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Youth Sport Trust and Sport England have advice and support on helping children and young people stay physically active.

NHS mental health services remain open and have digital tools to connect with people and provide ongoing support. Please use your local children and young people’s mental health service when needed.

Support for children and young people

Get free, confidential support at any time by:

  • texting SHOUT to 85258
  • calling Childline on 0800 1111
  • calling the Mix on 0808 808 4994

Find help online through:

  • Young Minds- information on COVID-19 and mental health
  • Think Ninja- a free app for 10 to 18 year olds to help build resilience and stay well
  • Every Mind Matters- building resilience and supporting good mental health in young people aged 10 to 16

PHE has also launched new e-learning which can help parents and carers to support their children and young people in emergency or crisis situations.

Barnardo’s See, Hear, Respond service, provides support to children, young people and their families who are not currently seeing a social worker or other agency, and who are struggling to cope with the emotional impacts of COVID-19. Use the See, Hear, Respond self-referral webpage or Freephone 0800 151 7015.

Report any safeguarding concerns you have about any child. Contact the NSPCC helpline.

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