Written: September 2020 

We wrote this article just before schools in England opened in September, 2020.  The article explores a range of issues that might still be helpful to your family as the pandemic develops.

The impact of coronavirus on children and young people can be massive. Your child might feel that they have more to deal with than other children as they settle back into school.

This could be because they have to care for others in their home, they have experienced bereavement, loss, racism before or during the pandemic, or other issues linked to COVID-19. 

You also might have gone through lots of change in your home life, including with routines, and your child may have had mixed feelings at different times for different reasons; from highs to lows. For some children and young people, not going to school was exciting or more comfortable than being at school, for others they felt the opposite, and couldn't wait to get back and see their friends again… or to eat those school meal pizzas! With schools now open, and the varying rules they have, we know it’s been a big adjustment for families across the country. Throughout this article, we will address some of the key pieces of information we know families have been seeking, including how your child’s school can best support you in finding the answers.

Small girl at school desk

Adapting to the ‘new normal’ - Changes to school rules

Routines and boundaries at school, including rules are going to be different to what they were pre-pandemic, and may continue to change. This might make it feel harder to settle into school and it will be normal for your child to not even feel like going some days. It can help to empathise with how your child feels about going to school. You could remind them it is ok to feel like this and everyone will be going through different emotions, including you too. It might help to encourage them to speak to someone who supports them if they feel uncomfortable with anything. This could be a teacher, a relative or a discussion with you as their parent or carer for example.

You could discuss the following changes with your child on this list of things that might be different:

Coronavirus and going to school

What information could I expect from my child’s school?

Every school will have slightly different arrangements. However, all schools have been given the same advice from the government. This includes advice about social distancing in school, hand sanitising and the use of face coverings. The government has also issued guidance for parents which can be seen here. You might have received some of the information below from your child’s school.

Protective ‘Bubbles

Your child might now be spending time at school with the same children or ‘bubble’ all week. 

Depending on the school (primary or secondary), this ‘bubble’ may be a class group or a whole year group. Movement around school may be staggered, breaks and lunch times too and entrance and exits to the school may have now changed. The school will have provided some guidance on this. If you feel confused by the amount of information you have received about bubbles, then know this is very common and completely understandable. If you are unsure about anything then it can help to check with the school. For further guidance on this see our advice on ‘What questions can I ask the school and who do I ask?’ here.

Uniform guidelines for cleanliness etc:

The government has created guidelines on uniforms for parents. You can see this by using this link. Your child’s school may also have sent you information on this. If you are unsure then contact your child’s school. If you are unsure of how to do this then see the guidance on ‘What questions can I ask the school and who do I ask?’ here.

New routines for drop off and collection and school buses

Getting to and from school will have changed for most children and young people. It is worth noting that dedicated school transport includes coaches that pick up the same children every day and minibuses, some of which will pick up different children on different days. Circumstances will vary to reflect your child's school.

There are likely to be staggered times for parents collecting and dropping off children, and your child’s school will have sent information to you about dropping off or picking up children safely. Try to stick to these times to reduce the numbers of parents waiting outside of school gates as this can be helpful in reducing the possible spread of the virus.

If using dedicated school transport, social distancing rules should be followed where this is possible. It is recommended that children and young people aged 11 and over are to wear a face covering on these school services. There are exemptions to this recommendation and for further guidance please check with your child’s school.

Points to remember about possible measures in place around school transport services:

  • Children expected to move in ‘bubbles’ where possible
  • Socially distance where possible
  • Vehicles being well ventilated
  • Increased cleaning of vehicles
  • Hand sanitiser provision

If you are unsure about any of the above, then check with your child’s school.

For more information the government has produced this guidance on getting to school.

Child's hand colouring in

Special Educational Needs and Disability:

If your child has Special Educational Needs and uses specialist transport to and from school, then there may be guidance about using these vehicles safely during the pandemic. If you have not received any information then contact your child’s school or the transport company. If you are unsure of how to contact the school then see our guidance on contacting schools here. Similarly, if your child regularly takes a taxi to school that is organised by the school, then the school will be able to give you the contact information for the taxi company. 

The taxi company itself will be best to answer any questions you have about rules within the taxi because of COVID-19. 

How will schools make subjects like PE and music safe?

Your child’s school may have sent you information on the steps they will take to clean equipment used in subjects like PE, music or science. Each school will be different. Your child’s school may be taking steps to reduce the use of equipment within these subjects or they may have a strict cleaning system in operation after each use. If you are unsure, have not received any information or would like to ask then see our guidance on contacting schools for information here. The government also has guidance for schools here.

What happens if my child is taken ill at school?

If your child displays symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 then it is likely that the school will send your child home. If your child is in the same class as another child who displays symptoms then your child’s ‘bubble’ may also be sent home. Each school will have a slightly different procedure on this. If you are unsure then check with your child’s school. 

If your child begins to display symptoms of COVID-19 then you can get a test for COVID-19. See the NHS’ information on testing here. If somebody in your child’s class or ‘bubble’ tests positive for COVID-19 then it is likely that the school will ask all of the children in that class or ‘bubble’ to stay at home for 14 days. In this scenario the school is expected to still offer lessons for your child either online or by sending work in the post. This advice may change so it can help to check with the school if this happens.

For further support, Barnardo’s project workers are waiting to answer your call. Call our See, Hear, Respond number on 0800 157 7015 or you can self-refer into the service at this link.