With Covid-19 cases rising around the UK, schools are adopting measures to reduce the spread and keep pupils safe.
But many parents still have questions.
What happens if someone tests positive for coronavirus?
If someone tests positive, they must be sent home to self-isolate for 14 days.
The school must then contact their local public health protection team, who will advise on who else should be sent home.
Anyone who has been in close contact with the person testing positive, will be advised to self-isolate for 14 days from their last date of contact.
Close contact means:
- face-to-face contact for any length of time, within 1m (3ft), including being coughed on, a face-to-face conversation, or unprotected physical contact (skin-to-skin)
- extended close contact (within 2m for more than 15 minutes) with an infected individual
- travelling in a small vehicle with an infected person
Could the whole school be closed?
Before term began, the government said closing an entire school would not generally be necessary.
However, at least one school had to temporarily close after an outbreak.
According to the most recent figures, about 16% of schools in England have so far sent some pupils home.
If pupils can’t come in, schools are expected to have a home-working plan available.
What if my child has a cough or cold?
The NHS says the main Covid-19 symptoms are:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- the loss of, or change to, your sense of taste or smell
If a child shows these symptoms, they – and other members of their household – should self-isolate for 14 days and get tested if possible.
A runny nose is more likely to be a symptom of a cold, and is not a reason to get tested for coronavirus, says NHS Scotland.
Help from the NHS:
Can my child get tested at school?
All schools in England have been provided with a small number of testing kits, to be offered to a pupil or staff member in the “exceptional circumstance” they cannot get tested any other way.
The government says the test kits should be given to an adult or else a child’s parent or carer, who should carry out the test off site (unless it is a boarding school).
Testing kits have also been provided to schools and colleges in Wales and Northern Ireland, but Scotland has not followed suit.
What precautions are schools taking?
Measures being taken include hand sanitiser stations, one-way systems and staggered break times.
Enhanced cleaning procedures have been introduced, and social distancing wherever possible.
How will children mix at school?
In England, younger children are being encouraged to mix in small groups or “bubbles” to balance the fact they are unlikely to stay 2m apart.
In Wales and Scotland, pupils are exempt from the 2m distancing rule “because it is harder for children to understand the concept of physical distancing”.
Older children, such as those in secondary schools, are being encouraged to avoid touching one another as much as possible.
Will children have to wear face coverings at school?
If they live in a local restrictions area, pupils in England in Year 7 and above will have to wear face coverings indoors, when not in class.
Additionally, secondary school head teachers have the power to introduce masks.
In Wales, local councils and schools will decide.
What about schools in local restriction areas?
If coronavirus cases rise in an area of England, schools will use a four-stage tier system of extra measures.
- Tier 1: Schools fully open to all pupils, face coverings required in corridors and communal areas for staff and students Year 7 and above
- Tier 2: A rota system to be used by secondary schools and colleges for most pupils; primary schools stay open
- Tier 3 and 4: Remote learning for “wider groups of pupils”; vulnerable and key worker children continue to go to school
These measures will be applied as ”an absolute last resort”, the government says. Areas where local restrictions are currently imposed are in tier 1.
What else has changed?
The school day may look different to previous years.
Schools are being asked to:
- stagger start and finish times
- avoid assemblies or collective worship with more than one group
- avoid contact sport and unnecessary sharing of objects
What about getting to school?
Walking or cycling will be encouraged. Parents should not gather in groups at school gates, or go on site without an appointment.
In Leicestershire, parents have been asked to wear face coverings when picking up or dropping off children at school.
Dedicated school transport services have been asked to:
- move children in “bubbles”
- provide hand sanitiser
- apply social distancing where possible
- ask children over 11 to wear face coverings