Information about the virus

Schools and education

Back to school information for parents, carers and pupils.

Last updated:
28 August 2020
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1 Feeling confident about returning

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We want every pupil in West Sussex to feel confident and ready to return to or start school in September.

Here you will find lots of useful information and answers to some questions you may have so children, parents and carers and family members are school-ready.

If you're a schoolchild and feeling a bit nervous, don’t worry – most schoolchildren won’t have been at school for a long time too because of coronavirus. Remember your friends will all be feeling the same as you, and your teachers will be there on your first day back to give you all the support you need.

Here is a message from some young people who went back to school last term on what it was like:

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Remember: please do not go to school, college, nursery or pre-school if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

2 How schools will be different

There will be a few differences when pupils go back – this is to keep everyone safe. The school will let you know more about these changes, but they are likely to include the following:

  • Different drop-off and pick-up times for different classes.
  • Teachers will ask pupils to wash their hands regularly before and after school.
  • Assemblies, lunchtime and PE lessons will probably be held in smaller groups.
  • Pupils will be part of what’s called a ‘bubble’ with their classmates, and learn and play together with this group throughout the day. They will also be encouraged to keep some space between others outside of their bubble.

Younger children may find it helpful to:

The Government wants all school-age children to be in school and college full-time from the beginning of the new school year. Teachers have been working hard to get ready for this so that children will feel safe and happy about being in school. 

If your child is going back or starting at nursery or pre-school, contact the provider to ask about their arrangements and safety measures.

Looking for childcare? Visit our Family Information Service website where you can search for childminders and nursery schools in your area.

If you have a child who is starting school you might find this starting school leaflet useful:

Remember: please do not go to school, college, nursery or pre-school if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

If your child has specific health concerns and you aren't sure if they can go back, please discuss this with their school.

3 What happens if someone at school tests positive

Everyone is doing their bit to keep West Sussex safe from coronavirus (COVID-19), and that includes schools and childcare settings.

Throughout the pandemic, schools and childcare settings have remained open to specific groups of children. They have followed the national health guidance on keeping everyone safe and preventing any potential outbreak.

The latest scientific evidence shows that most children who get coronavirus have only very mild symptoms. There is no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults.

If a child or staff member displays symptoms of coronavirus, they will be sent home as soon as is possible and asked to self-isolate for ten days and arrange to be tested. Parents/carers will be contacted and asked to collect children who need picking up.

The school or childcare setting will contact their local Public Health England health protection team, who will advise on any measures they may need to take. This might include deep cleaning and contacting other parents/carers with information or any action they need to follow.

Remember: please do not go to school, college, nursery or pre-school if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

4 Getting to and from school

We are encouraging families to consider other ways of getting to and from school, such as walking or cycling where this is an option. We are expecting roads to be busy when schools return, so if you are able to, you could consider walking, cycling or using public transport and leaving the car at home.

For college and university students, cycling is a great way to get fit, save fuel money, and help keep cars off the road.

Find out if there's a new pop-up cycle lane near you.

If you or anyone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms please do not attend school.

By car

If you do have to travel into school by car, your school might ask you to drop off and pick up away from the main entrance to avoid any additional congestion. It is possible that some schools will have ‘exclusion zones’ near their main gates where cars aren’t able to enter.

The Government advise that people from a household or support bubble can travel together in a vehicle, but you should try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or support bubble. If this can’t be avoided, you should:

  • all wear a face covering
  • keep windows open
  • face away from each other
  • travel with the same, small group.

By bus, minibus or taxi

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We have been working closely with our school transport operators and schools to make sure all of the government safety measures are in place. This will ensure that travelling to and from school is as safe as possible. We are putting on some extra vehicles and all of our school buses, minibuses and taxis will be regularly deep cleaned and drivers and staff will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) or have protective screens.

If you travel in by public bus or school bus, minibus or taxi, these are some important things you need to know:

  • Face coverings are required by law for all pupils aged 11 and over on public transport. Children aged 11 and over should wear a covering on all school transport if they can, as well as younger children who are able. If a child has a reason which makes them exempt, please let your school know this. We need everyone’s help to make this workable - so please discuss the importance of wearing a face covering together. You can watch how to wear a face mask correctly in this video:
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  • You should wash or sanitise your hands before and after boarding.
  • Social distancing is not a national requirement on dedicated school transport - but users should sit with others in their bubbles or year groups where possible.
  • Windows and sunroofs will be kept open where possible to aid ventilation.

Please note that some public bus services will become dedicated school bus services. You can:

Please note that Stagecoach will only be accepting exact fares on their buses for those paying by cash and are advising contactless payment.

It is normally the responsibility of parents to get their children to and from school safely. Some children may be entitled to get free transport from designated stops in certain circumstances. You can find more information on our school and college transport pages.

5 School meals

Hot meal choices for pupils will continue to be available in most schools, or they may take in a packed lunch.

A very small number of schools will be providing packed meals on return to school, but if this is the case your school will have told you.

Lunch time - and break times in secondary schools - might be different for children when they return to school because of the need to keep some distance from those not in their bubble.

Each school will have their own unique setup for lunchtimes to provide a lunch service as safely as possible. Lunch might still be provided in the dining hall, with a few changes, such as staggered entry times or a new table layout. If schools assess that dining areas are not suitable after carrying out a risk assessment then pupils might be fed in their bubbles in classrooms. If this is the case classroom feeding will have been discussed and agreed with the school's catering staff before the start of term.

Our primary school meal providers, Chartwells and Easy Lunch, have been providing hot and packed lunches to schools safely throughout the pandemic. They continue to adhere to strict health and safety guidelines to ensure they are COVID-safe when preparing and serving meals. Chartwells have produced a short video to help prepare parents for what they might expect from the lunch service on return to school.

For secondary schools, please check with the school about the lunch and break time food arrangements. Useful information like this might be on the school’s website.

If your child is in reception, year one or year two they will be entitled to Universal Infant Free Schools Meals. A paid-for hot meals service will be available for older primary school aged children, and for children attending secondary school.

If you are a low-income family with a child attending either a primary or secondary school, find out if you are eligible for benefit-related free school meals.

Remember: please do not go to school, college, nursery or pre-school if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

6 Support with GCSE, A-Level and AS-Level results

Pupils due to sit their GCSE, A-Level and AS-Level exams weren’t able to because of coronavirus. This year, each student will receive a calculated grade for each subject. This will be based on the assessment of a range of their work, including coursework and mock results.

Didn’t get the results you were hoping for and unsure what to do next? You can speak to one of our careers advisors who can help you consider the options that might be available to you in further education, employment or training.

Watch our video to find out more:

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Contact us

Remember: please do not go to school or college if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

7 Support with emotional wellbeing

The wellbeing of all children and young people remains at the centre of school and the council’s measures and plans.

Dr Audrey Hunt and Dr Denita Whitelock from the West Sussex Educational Psychology Service have produced online resources for parents to support their children’s wellbeing and the positive return to school.

  • Supporting your child with their emotional wellbeing during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
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  • How parents can support their child’s anxiety about returning to school.
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  • Strategies and resources to support primary age children’s return to school.
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  • Strategies and resources to support secondary age children’s return to school.
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You may also find the guidance on the following websites for supporting your child's mental health as they go back to school helpful:

Remember: please do not go to school, college, nursery or pre-school if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

8 Support for children with SEND

Children or young people with a disability or additional needs may feel anxious about going back to school in September. Their school can help with any questions they or their parents/carers may have, and support you.

When the pupil goes back to school, our Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and Inclusion Service will work with them and the people who are important to them, to make sure they have the support they need.

Find out more

Remember: please do not go to school, college, nursery or pre-school if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

9 Summer activities, childcare and library offer

There are lots of youth services offering summer holiday camps and activities that adhere to the latest government restrictions.

You can search for childcare and activities and services for 0-25 year olds in your area on our Family Information Service website

West Sussex Library Service also has a wide range of online resources, activities and information for young children, teenagers and families to enjoy via their Library Offer.

Remember: please do not attend an activity if you have symptoms, or if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms include: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. Get a test.

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