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Returning to school in September: your questions answered

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All pupils are to return to school full-time in September, with schools implementing a range of measures set out in our guidance. These measures – endorsed by PHE – include regular hand washing, ensuring good respiratory hygiene, and minimising contact for example through asking children to stay within specified separate groups (or bubbles).

Here we answer some of your most common questions:

Is there any prospect there could be a phased or rota based return to school in September, or that the reopening of schools could be delayed if there are local lockdowns?

We are planning for all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term. In the event of a local lockdown, schools will ensure continuity of education and Ofsted will oversee the quality of the remote provision. We are not asking schools to plan for part-time rota systems.

Is it still safe for all children to go back to school in September?

The Department have always been guided by the latest scientific and medical advice, and we will continue to base our guidance on this advice.

Returning to school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing, and a full return in September will be an important move back towards normal life for many children and families.

Endorsed by Public Health England, all schools have been asked to implement the protective measures set out in the ‘system of controls’ which, alongside their own risk assessments, will help to reduce the risk of transmission. Some of these protective measures include:

  • Minimising contacts and maintaining distance as far as possible, for example by keeping children in consistent groups and minimising mixing with others
  • Introducing enhanced cleaning, reducing the used of shared items, and utilising outdoor space
  • Cleaning hands more often than usual and ensuring good respiratory hygiene

Will pupils and staff be tested?

All pupils, staff and the households have access to testing if they display symptoms of coronavirus and should get tested in this scenario.

From the autumn term onwards, school settings will be provided with a small number of home testing kits to help ensure that anyone who needs a test can get swift access to one. We are currently working with Department for Health and Social Care on plans for this roll-out, including how and when school settings will receive testing kits.

What will happen if there is a spike in cases locally?

We have rapidly built, from scratch, the largest diagnostic testing programme in British history. Over 16 million tests have been delivered so far and we have the capacity to carry out more than 330,000 tests per day, growing to 500,000 per day by the end of October.

Plans have been put in place to ensure schools can re-open safely. Local health officials, using the latest data, will able to determine the best action to take to help curb the spread of the virus as part of the Local Outbreak Control Plans developed by local authorities. The nature of school settings means it is more straightforward to identify large numbers of contacts quickly. All 152 upper tier Local Authorities have created and shared their Local Outbreak Control Plans.

Will face coverings need to be worn by pupils or staff in schools?

Our guidance has been clear and consistent since the beginning of lockdown  that we do not expect children to wear face coverings at school.

This position is based on scientific advice by Public Health England, which does not currently recommend the use of face coverings in schools, as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups. There may also be negative effects on communication and thus education.

More information about the Department’s position on face coverings can be found here.



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