Back to school 2020 - frequently asked questions

Sandwell is in a high alert area (tier 2). Check out the government's website to see what the government restrictions are for Sandwell and its residents.  

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, or who have someone in their household who does, 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.
  • Working with the NHS ‘Test and Trace’ system to ensure that anyone in contact with a confirmed case can be followed up and isolated 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.

Can relatives who you don't live look after your children?

Childcare bubbles can be formed so other households can help with childcare. This is called a childcare bubble.

A childcare bubble is where someone in one household provides informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household. For any given childcare bubble, this must always be between the same 2 households.

Friends or family who do not live with you and are not part of a support or childcare bubble must not visit your home to help with childcare. Childcare bubbles are to be used to provide childcare only, and not for the purposes of different households mixing where they are otherwise not allowed to do so.

Details about childcare from the government

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.

The whole household should also isolate for 14 days, unless there is a negative test result. 

Children will also need to stay at home for 14 days if another member of your household develops coronavirus (COVID 19) symptoms.

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 as above. Schools may have a small number of home testing kits for families that are unable to get to a testing centre.

What if several children fall ill?

If another child or staff member at your school is a confirmed case of coronavirus (i.e. has a positive test), then your child might be asked to isolate at home for up to 14 days if they are considered to be a close contact.

If two or more cases are found within 14 days, larger groups of young people might have to self-isolate as a precautionary measure.

In cases where a more widespread outbreak is apparent, the local community testing team could be deployed for large-scale testing.

In all cases, the local Health Protection Team will be providing advice on outbreak management to the school.

If my child is sent home from school because someone in their bubble has tested positive, do they need to be tested?

Your child does not need a test if they have been sent home as a precaution as someone in their bubble has received a positive test, and they have no symptoms.

Only book a test if your child has symptoms or you have been told to do so by a doctor or public health advisor.

My child has been sent home from school to isolate, do their brothers and sisters have to stay at home to isolate as well?

If your child is isolating because they have COVID symptoms or have had a positive COVID test, then yes the whole household will need to isolate for 14 days.

If your child is isolating because they are a close contact of another pupil who has tested positive for COVID, then their brothers and sisters who are in different classes/bubbles don’t need to isolate.

Will schools close if there is a large outbreak of cases?

Closing schools will not generally be necessary unless there is a spike in infection rates in a particular area and a local lockdown is announced.

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.

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. 

Schools will keep groups of pupils apart where possible by keeping them separate in a ‘bubble’. The size of the bubble will depend on how each school organises its teaching timetable and curriculum.

Teachers have been advised to keep a two-metre distance from other adults and older pupils, where possible.

Who will have to wear a face covering?

Sandwell is an area under local government restrictions.

Face coverings are not a requirement for pupils in primary schools.

In secondary schools, face coverings should be worn by staff, visitors and pupils/students when moving around in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Face coverings are required at all times on public transport (except children under the age of 11), when attending a hospital as a visitor or outpatient, or when in a shop or a supermarket or other indoor venue.

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.

What if my child has a medical condition which makes them vulnerable?

The Government guidance on ‘Shielding’ has been changed and clinically vulnerable children are expected to attend school.

If you have any concerns then speak directly to your child’s school to discuss the measures they have in place to protect pupils. You can also seek advice from your child’s GP or paediatrician.

In the case of an increase in transmission levels, ‘shielding’ patients might be asked to shield again. Please check the national and council website for further information.

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 abroad in school holidays?

You must avoid booking any holiday during term time. Please avoid booking a holiday abroad during half-term if at all possible. Your family may be required to quarantine for two weeks after returning from an abroad holiday. Details about which countries can be visited without a quarantine on return are constantly being updated, check for the latest position on travel quarantine on the government website.

If you already have a holiday arranged for that time and find that your family is required to quarantine on return then your child must isolate at home for the necessary period. You should contact your child’s school and let them know so that homework can be provided.