Back to school - autumn term 2021 - frequently asked questions
What are schools doing to keep children and staff safe?
Every school will have carried out a risk assessment and will have plans to implement the following measures:
- Ensuring that those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms do not attend school.
- Planning for regular hand washing throughout the day and promoting ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ for coughs and sneezes.
- Extra cleaning, particularly for frequently touched surfaces.
- Reducing contact between individuals and groups and maintaining social distancing wherever possible.
- Wearing face-coverings in communal areas (secondary pupils and adults)
- Keeping rooms well-ventilated
- Twice-weekly testing of staff and students (year 7 and above)
- Working with the NHS ‘Test and Trace’ system to ensure that anyone in contact with a confirmed case can be followed up and tested if required.
The risk assessments will also consider the steps needed to protect children and staff who are more vulnerable to contracting the virus because of medical or complex needs, age or ethnicity.
Parents have a key role in this process.
Mixing and bubbles
The government 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 for any summer provision (for example, summer schools) or in settings from the autumn term.
This means that assemblies and larger group activities can resume.
Will my child have to have a COVID-19 Test?
Secondary aged pupils (year 7 and above) will be provided with kits to test themselves twice weekly at home.
These rapid tests are called Lateral Flow Tests and should only be used when someone has no symptoms. If your child has a new persistent cough, temperature or loss/change of taste or smell you must isolate them at home and book a Covid-19 test.
Rapid testing is voluntary and your child will not be tested unless they (if they are aged over 18) or you (or another parent/carer) have given informed consent. We strongly encourage you and your child to take part, to help us break chains of transmission and manage the virus.
What if my child has already had a confirmed case of COVID-19?
Your child does not need to take part in the rapid testing programme if they have had a positive COVID-19 test within the last 90 days. Tests can pick up traces of the virus after the infectious period, resulting in people isolating unnecessarily. If however your child develops new COVID-19 symptoms at any point they should book a Covid-19 test.
What if my child has a positive rapid test result?
If your child has tested positive at school, they will need to return home and isolate for ten days. They should avoid using public transport and, wherever possible, be collected by a member of their family or household.
In exceptional circumstances, if parents or carers cannot arrange to have their child collected, if age-appropriate and safe to do so the child should walk, cycle or scoot home following a positive test result.
If a child has positive result from a test they have carried out at home, they will need to isolate for ten days and also book a PCR test to confirm the result. From 16 August, if you are fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and 6 months you will not be required to self-isolate if you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
What will happen if my child becomes ill with Coronavirus (Covid-19)?
If your child develops any of the following symptoms
- a new persistent cough
- high temperature
- loss or change to sense of taste or smell
they should stay at home, you should let the school know and get a test arranged immediately.
The child must self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
If the test is positive the NHS Test and Trace Service will request details of anyone your child has had close contact with. Please notify your school of the result.
In Sandwell we are encouraging people experiencing a wider range of symptoms to also consider seeking a PCR test. These wider symptoms include headaches, aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, stomach ache and feeling tired for no apparent reason. If a person experiences these wider symptoms (and there is no other obvious cause) then they can choose to have a PCR test if they wish.
Unlike in the case of the classic three COVID symptoms, seeking a test when you experience the wider range of symptoms is not obligatory. It is your choice. There is also no need for your child to self-isolate (unless of course the PCR test comes back positive).
What if a child falls ill at school?
If your child develops symptoms at school, then they will be isolated from other pupils until they can be collected and taken home. You should arrange a test immediately and isolate. Schools may have a small number of home testing kits for families that are unable to get to a testing centre.
Will schools close if there is a large outbreak of cases?
Closing schools will not generally be necessary unless there high numbers of staff who need to isolate and the school cannot operate safely.
Is there any support available to families?
There is lots of support available to help children and young people. We also have support for parents and carers.
In some circumstances, if you are required by law to self-isolate, you may be supported by a payment of £500, payable through Sandwell Council.
Do children have to social distance?
There is not a requirement for one metre or two metre distancing between children, but secondary schools may encourage this, particularly with older pupils where they can.
Who has to wear a face covering?
Face coverings are not a requirement for pupils in primary schools.
From 17 May 2021, the DfE guidance states that face coverings are no longer recommended for pupils in classrooms or communal areas. Also, face coverings are no longer recommended for staff in classrooms.
In all schools the guidance continues to recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and visitors in situations outside of classrooms where social distancing is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas).
Schools will continue to use their own risk assessment processes alongside these recommendations.
In nurseries, childminders and primary schools, adults (including staff and visitors) should continue to wear face coverings in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible. They will therefore ask you and other visitors to use face coverings if you come on site.
Are staff and children in primary schools allowed to use face coverings?
Public Health England does not (based on current evidence) recommend the use of face coverings in primary schools. This evidence will be kept under review. They are considered not to be required in schools as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups, and because misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. There may also be negative effects on communication and thus education.
WHO and UNICEF advise that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask / face covering under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee social distancing from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.
Children under 5 should not wear a mask / face covering.
Are there exemptions from wearing face coverings?
Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. For example, people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or aiding someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate. The same exemptions will apply in education settings, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs.
My child goes to before and/or after school clubs. Are these still running?
Schools will make their own arrangements for before and after school clubs. If your school isn’t providing this service, please check out the Family Information Service website for details of what clubs or childcare is on offer local to you.
Can I book a holiday?
You should plan your holidays within school and college holidays as usual. You should make sure any travel is in line with national travel guidance and keep in mind that you and your children may need to self-isolate when you return from a trip overseas if you are required to.
You must avoid booking any holiday during term time. More details about travelling abroad are on the government website.