Coronavirus: information and updates

Returning to school during coronavirus

Following government guidance, schools will reopen in the autumn term. Schools will run differently and should have safety measures in place. All children must return to school. Children can only stay home if they:

  • are self-isolating
  • have had symptoms or a positive test result themselves
  • are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus

Ask the school what homeschooling support they can provide if your child has to stay home.

If your child has found lockdown difficult, the school may suggest a phased return. They will only do this if it meets your child’s needs and you agree in advance.

Returning to school in England (GOV.UK)

Back to school plans in Wales (gov.wales)

Warning Local lockdowns

If you’re in local lockdown, the rules may be different in your area.

Check GOV.UK for local lockdown rules

Shielding and returning to school

Shielding advice for all adults and children was paused in August. This means children can return to school if they:

  • are on the shielded patient list
  • have family members who are shielding

Shielding advice in England (GOV.UK)

If you have concerns about your child returning to school, contact the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCO). They should explain what changes they are making to reduce risks.

If your child cannot go to school because they are following clinical or public health advice, talk to the school about what to do next.

Children with SEN and EHCPs

Some schools may do a risk assessment for children with SEN or Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP). They do not have to do an assessment but should contact you and involve you in plans for returning to school. They should also involve young people over 16 who have EHC plans. 

Contact the school by phone or email if they have not contacted you.

SEN support and EHCPs

EHCP changes

Rules on EHCPs changed because of coronavirus. These changes meant schools and local authorities had some flexibility on needs assessments and EHCP provision.

After 25 September, these changes stop. Schools and local authorities must legally provide all provision in your child’s EHC plan. They must also meet the legal timeframes for needs assessments.

Ask your local authority to explain why if they tell you there are delays to your child’s EHCP assessment. EHCP assessments should continue as normal and must be completed within 6 weeks. 

If they say EHC support is different because of coronavirus, contact your local parent support service for help.

Education health and care plans legislation changes (GOV.UK)

Face masks at school

Years 7 and above may also need to wear face masks or coverings. It’s up to the school to decide if they will use face masks and where students should wear a mask. For example, in common rooms where students cannot stay 1 metre apart.

Children with certain health conditions will not have to wear a mask.

Face coverings in education (GOV.UK)

Face masks and PPE

Talking to your child’s school

Organise a call or video call with your child’s SENCO, ALNCO or teachers to talk about returning to school.

If English is not your first language or you use British Sign Language (BSL), ask what support is available for you to arrange a meeting so that you’re comfortable.

You may want to ask:

  • what safety measures will be in place, like face masks and social distancing
  • which staff will work with your child and how they can get to know them before returning
  • if transport will be available, for example if your child usually takes the school bus
  • what other changes your child should expect 
  • what you can do to prepare your child for returning to school

You could also share any concerns you have, like:

  • changes to your child’s routine
  • your child falling behind or feeling unprepared for the new school year
  • their transition to a new school
  • not enough educational support when they return
  • how they’ll socialise safely with other children
  • how the situation will affect their wellbeing and the rest of your family

If you have a difficult relationship with the school, try to keep the focus on your child’s wellbeing. Say that you’d like to work with them to make sure your child can return smoothly. For example, you could keep a diary to show how your child is coping at the moment.

If your child is older, ask if they want to be on the call with you. Let the school know if they do, and if they have specific worries or triggers at the moment.

If your child is moving to a different school, try to organise a video call with staff from both. Ask what the schools are doing if they can no longer offer transition days to students.

Get support from Contact (Contact.org.uk)

How to do video calls (Age UK)

Contact your parent support service

If your school is unsure how they can help your child return to school, contact your local authority’s independent parent support service.

The service may have a different name depending on your area. They’re sometimes called:

  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)
  • Information Advice and Support Service (IASS)
  • Parent Partnership Service

Services may be running differently at the moment, and you may have to wait for them to get back to you. Contact them by email if you cannot reach them by phone.

Get support from parents in similar situations (mumsnet)

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Preparing your child to return to school

No one knows your child and how they respond to change better than you. Once you know what the changes are, it can help to share these with your child so they know what to expect. You could try a few different ways, depending on your child's needs. For example:

  • use drawings to show them how their classroom may look
  • show them photos of new staff
  • show them handwashing, social distancing and other safety measures
  • show them face masks and gloves so they’re familiar with them
  • tell them about their new routine or create a visual timetable, including what time they’ll get up, how they’ll get to school, lunch time and returning home
  • ask them about any worries they have if they’re anxious about returning

If you have an older child, they may have different concerns about their return to school. For example, pressure from friends to break social distancing rules. Ask them about their worries and reassure them that you’ll help them adapt as things change.

Leaflet on returning to school for children with SEN (SEND Gateway)

Social stories and comic strips (National Autistic Society)

Help with negative emotions (Families Under Pressure)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 09/09/2020

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