Schools and educational settings have reopened. They all have systems in place to help keep children, staff and their families safe, so we can all help to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Your child’s school will have contacted you by email or post to tell you what you need to know.
What we are doing
All children need to attend school, but we know that some pupils have not been in school for a long time. We appreciate they may feel worried about going back or starting a new school. You should know that schools are working hard to keep your children safe and we are working hard to support them. Hopefully the steps we are taking will help reassure you and your family.
We are helping schools in a way that allows them to function while reducing the risk of the virus.
Your school, supported by us, has a plan for dealing with any positive cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We are reviewing the situation and will change our plans as necessary.
What schools are doing to keep your child safe
Schools use protective bubbles to help manage risk. A bubble is a group of pupils who spend their day together often with the same small group of staff. Children in the bubble spend time together having the same break and lunchtimes.
They also use the measures that we have become familiar with:
- children wash their hands regularly
- social distancing is in place where it can be
- staggered start and finish times help with the flow of pupils
- cleaning in classrooms and areas within the school is done more often
- we will use contact tracing if there are positive cases
What you can do
There are a few things you can do.
Make sure your child attends
You have to make sure your child attends school:
- schools record attendance and following up on absences
- there will be sanctions, including fines, for non-attendance or term time leave
All our schools are working hard to make sure that children are safe. If your child has special educational needs you can talk to your school SENCO.
Talk to your school if you have concerns about your child's attendance. Where attendance issues occur, we can put measures in place for families who need help.
Your child may need a face covering (mask)
The government has revised its guidance on face coverings for staff and children in Year 7 or above.
Following this, the Sheffield Director of Public Health advises all secondary schools, further education colleges and Universities that face coverings should be worn by pupils and staff in communal areas and corridors. It is not necessary to wear them in the classroom.
If your child goes to secondary school you should provide them with a face covering. You may also be asked to wear a face covering if you need to go inside a primary or secondary school.
Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils in primary school settings.
Changing attendance times
School start and finish times may be different and vary from day to day.
Make sure you've adjusted your routine so you have time to get up, get ready and get to school on time. Tell your children about the new routine so they know what they need to do.
Driving to school
There could be heavy traffic on the way to schools and outside schools gates. We’re asking parents and pupils to think about the ways they travel. You can try alternatives to driving, such as cycling or walking, that help reduce traffic and can be good for your health.
If you do need to drive then you should park a short distance away from the school. This will help you to avoid the worst traffic and reduce congestion around the school. You should avoid car sharing with anyone outside your household.
Using the school bus
If you can't walk or cycle then your child may be able to use the school bus instead. School buses will be cleaned before and after each journey and will not be used by members of the public during the day.
Children using the school bus will sit in year group zones to assist with tracking and tracing any positive cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). If your child uses the bus they will need to:
- carry tissues and hand sanitiser with them
- sanitise their hands before and after using the bus
- wear face coverings if aged 11 or older (unless exempt)
- maintain social distancing at bus stops
- not be allowed food or drinks on the buses
Public transport is available for journeys to most schools. Plan your journey in advance and consider whether you can walk or cycle to school instead. Journeys by public transport may take longer and some routes may be busier than usual.
You should follow public transport guidance including wearing a mask on vehicles and in interchanges and stations.
If you or your child are exempt from wearing masks you can download or print face covering exemption cards from Travel South Yorkshire or collect from Transport Interchanges. This may help you explain to people in official capacity why you are not wearing a face covering in mandatory settings.
Travelling and returning from abroad
If you travel abroad you need to follow national guidance before your child goes back to school. If you need to self-isolate on your return you should inform your child's school.
What happens if children or staff show symptoms at school
If anyone gets symptoms in school:
- they will be isolated immediately
- once isolated they will be looked after by a member of staff wearing PPE
- they will be sent home as soon as possible
If there is a positive case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) at your school
If a pupil or staff member tests positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19):
- the school will inform Public Health England (PHE) and our Public Health Team
- PHE will then provide advice to the school and close contacts may be asked to isolate
If there are multiple cases
If there are two or more positive cases, or a high reported absence from school which is suspected to be Coronavirus (COVID-19) related, the school will notify PHE and our Public Health team.
PHE and our Public Health team will work with the school. This will include undertaking a risk assessment with the head teacher to identify direct or close contacts in the school (those in the child's bubble) who will need to self-isolate at home for 14 days.
It is unlikely that a school will need to close and we will be doing all that we can to avoid this. Each situation will be discussed with PHE and our Public Health Team to decide what action the school needs to take.
Any decisions taken will always involve discussion with the school leadership team. Parents and carers will receive information about what steps we are taking.
What to do if your child or a household member develops symptoms
If your child or anyone in your household develops symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19):
- your household should isolate immediately and you should book a test for anyone with symptoms at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119
- your child should not attend school
- if your child has a positive result you should notify the school and your child should isolate for 10 days
- members of your household should isolate for 14 days
- if your child is not a known contact of a confirmed case they can return to school if the result is negative, provided they feel well and they have not had a fever for 48 hours
- if your child is a contact of a confirmed case they must stay off school for the 14-day isolation period, even if they test negative. This is because they can develop the infection at any point up to day 14
Who to speak to
If you have concerns about your child attending school or any other education setting you should speak to your school directly.
A message from Greg Fell about returning to school safely
Our Head of Public Health Greg Fell explains how schools will reopen safely.
I’d like to thank parents and carers for supporting all the changes that schools have had to make. And thank you to the schools themselves for doing everything they can to protect children, parents, carers and staff. I know it’s not easy but getting on board with these changes really does help to stop the spread of COVID-19, and keep everyone safe.
Schools will continue to look a bit different when they reopen in September and we know you might feel anxious about this – whether your children are starting for the first time, or returning.
We want to reassure you that we are reviewing the situation regularly and supporting schools and settings to reopen safely. We have launched a new webpage with lots of information about this.
It’s www.sheffield.gov.uk/backtoschoolsafely. On there, are things like what happens if there’s a positive case at your school, what will happen if your child shows symptoms at school, what schools are doing to keep children and staff safe, and lots more.
Your school will be in touch with important messages, including start and finish times, and where to drop-off and pick up, so be sure to look out for those.
What we’d like you to do now is start planning and preparing for the start of the school year. If you need to be at school a bit earlier, plan a new routine so your child can get there on time. Have a couple of practice runs so it’s not a shock on the first day.
We’d also really like to encourage everyone to walk or cycle to school, if they possibly can. School transport is going to be quite limited and, if possible, we want people not to jump in their cars but get into the new habit of walking, cycling or even scooting to school. It’s by far the safest, cheapest and healthiest way of getting to and from school. If you really do have to drive, please don’t park right at the school gates.
Parking even just five minutes away from school and walking the rest of the way will keep others safer, and help reduce air pollution around schools. If you do need to use school transport, please remember that children who are 11 years and older should wear a face covering, unless they’re exempt. Please only use public transport if there is absolutely no other option.
Thank you once again for supporting these changes and following guidance to help stop the spread, keep your children safe and protect others.
Greg Fell summarises the former Chief Medical Officer's (CMO) report about children returning to school in September.