Information about the virus

Schools and education

Back to school information for parents, carers and pupils.

Last updated:
11 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

Please note: We are awaiting further national guidance on school transport, so keep checking this page which will be updated with a video explaining the West Sussex arrangements for September.

We are encouraging families to consider other ways of getting to and from school, such as walking or cycling if you are able to. If you need to travel in by car, your school might ask you to drop your child off away from the main entrance to avoid more congestion.

Children travelling to school by dedicated school transport (coach, minibus or taxi) or on a public bus

This guidance will be updated with further information, but schoolchildren will be asked to:

  • wash their hands before and after boarding
  • sit with others in your bubble/year group where possible
  • keep their distance between students not in their bubble as well as other passengers, if they can.

Parents of children travelling to school by public bus (either buying their own ticket or given a pass by the council) should visit the bus operators’ websites to check the times and routes that will be available.

Please be aware that:

  • journeys at school times may have changed to run slightly earlier or later
  • buses that usually divert to a school gate may no longer do so and children may need to walk from the nearest stop on the ‘standard’ route.

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 in certain circumstances. You can find more information on the school and college transport section.

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.

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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