1 Schools now fully open
From Monday 8 March 2021, all students of school age in England returned to school or college. While it was expected that all primary age children return on this date, some secondary schools phased their return during the first week to allow them to undertake the pre-testing of students before returning.
Prior to 8 March, schools had been open only to students considered vulnerable or children of critical workers under national COVID-19 restrictions, with online learning provided to all others at home.
Your school will have a number of protective measures in place, similar to those introduced last September.
What you need to know
The Government has made school attendance mandatory. See GOV.UK to read the full Government guidance about what parents and carers need to know.
Children confirmed as clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend school until further notice and will continue to be provided with home learning. See GOV.UK for the full Government guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
In a change introduced from Friday, 1 April 2021, people who are clinically vulnerable should all have received their vaccine and are no longer advised to shield.
This means that children and young people considered clinically extremely vulnerable can now attend pre-schools, school, college, wraparound childcare and out-of-school settings. This is unless they are one of the very small number of children under paediatric or other specialist care who have been advised by their GP or clinician not to attend.
Early years settings such as nurseries, special schools and alternative provision settings have largely remained open throughout and continue to allow children to attend full-time or their usual hours.
COVID-19 cases have dropped sharply in West Sussex since the national lockdown was introduced, and this includes cases amongst children and young people. The latest national medical evidence continues to show that most children and young people who have coronavirus have only very mild symptoms or show no symptoms at all.
It’s vital that families continue to do all they can by:
- not sending children to school if you or they have COVID-19 symptoms and getting tested straight away
- self-isolating if you have any symptoms, have tested positive (even if you don’t have symptoms) or have been told you are a contact of someone with coronavirus.
Please let your school know if any of the above apply.
Your school will let you know about any particular arrangements they have in place, for example drop off and collection changes.
You are advised to contact your school if you have any concerns, who will be able to discuss them with you and let you know about the safety measures they have in place.
2 COVID-19 testing in schools
The Government is now rolling out a programme of testing of those who do not have any COVID-19 symptoms using lateral flow devices, which deliver results in approximately 30 minutes. This is to identify those who may have coronavirus without showing any symptoms (estimated to be one in three cases).
Children of pre-school or primary school age are not being asked to undertake regular asymptomatic testing. However, staff in primary schools may be taking part in the testing programme to help limit transmission.
From Monday 8 March, secondary- and college-aged pupils (from year 7 upwards) will be able to undertake weekly testing if their school is taking part. The first three tests will be offered in school or college by a member of staff, with a fourth taken at home using a home kit. After this, students will be given home kits by their school and asked to test themselves twice a week at home.
Instructions on carrying out the home testing, and how older students or their parents/carers should report the results, will be provided.
Testing will be voluntary if consent is given by the student (if 18 or over) or their parent/guardian if under 18. More information on school testing is included in the Government guidance for parents/carers.
Home testing kits are now available for adults with no COVID symptoms who live with primary or secondary age children and adults in their childcare/support bubble. Details of how to get the test kits are available on our Asymptomatic testing page.
3 Face coverings
The Government has confirmed that face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school and college classrooms and in communal areas. This is a precautionary measure when students return after Easter (unless students or staff are exempt for medical reasons).
It is expected that from Monday 17 May, face coverings will no longer be required in secondary schools as part of Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown - this is yet to be confirmed and will follow a Government review of the data nearer the time.
For the time being, secondary pupils should also wear a face covering on public and dedicated school transport, unless exempt.
The wearing of face coverings only applies to students in year 7 upwards (not in nursery or primary schools). Please be aware that school staff and visiting adults in both primary and secondary schools are still asked to wear a face covering where social distancing is difficult.
The full Government guidance for parents/carers also includes information on:
- assessments and exams (including GCSE and A-level), which won’t take place as planned
- school meals
- elective home education
- support for parents and students around emotional wellbeing.
4 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 will find a host of information about the support and services we offer children and young people on our Your Space website. For example, you can obtain a referral to our free Youth Emotional Support (YES) Service. The team offers young people aged 11-18 support with wellbeing-related issues such as mood, anxiety, self-injury and unhelpful thoughts.
- On West Sussex Local Offer there is emotional wellbeing and mental health information for people supporting a relative, partner or friend with these conditions.
- The Government has recently released this guidance on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
- West Sussex Mind is offering free online workshops for parents, carers and families on a range of mental health topics.
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:
- How parents can support their child’s anxiety about returning to school:
- Strategies and resources to support primary age children’s return to school:
- Strategies and resources to support secondary age children’s return to school:
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.
5 Help paying for childcare and family activities
Whether you have young children or teenagers, the Government has a number of schemes to help families with the cost of childcare.
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 offers young children, teenagers and families a wide range of online resources, activities and information to enjoy.