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Coronavirus: Phased reopening of schools - frequently asked questions for parents and carers

Is attendance compulsory?

All eligible children - including priority groups - are encouraged to attend their education setting, unless they are self-isolating with their families or they are clinically vulnerable. It is no longer necessary for parents of eligible children to keep them at home if they can.

Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time, and schools and colleges will not be held to account for attendance levels.

Is attendance for vulnerable children compulsory?

There is an expectation that vulnerable children of all year groups will attend educational or childcare provision, where it is safe and appropriate for them do so. This will be guided by risk assessment.

How do we cater for whole year groups plus some vulnerable / critical work children in other year groups?

Vulnerable children and children of critical workers in year groups that are not part of widened re-opening should also be split into small groups of no more than 15. Desks will be spaced as far apart as possible.

Should children who are shielding or medically vulnerable attend school?

It is not expected that clinically extremely vulnerable children attend school or college, and they should continue to be supported at home as much as possible.

Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. A small minority of children will fall into this category, and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.

Should a child attend school if someone in their household is shielding?

If someone in their household is extremely clinically vulnerable (shielded), they should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to, and the child is able to understand and follow those instructions.

If stringent social distancing cannot be adhered to, it is not expected that those children will attend. They should be supported to learn or work at home.

If a child, young person or a member of staff lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not shielded), including those who are pregnant, they can attend their education or childcare setting.

How will schools record and report attendance?

Schools and colleges will resume taking their attendance register and will continue to complete the online Educational Setting Status form which gives the Department for Education daily updates on how many children and staff are attending school. However no parent will be penalised for not sending their child to school.

Will exams be reinstated?

No examinations or assessments will take place this term and Ofsted will continue to pause routine inspection.

How will children get to school?

Parents and children and young people are encouraged to walk or cycle where possible and avoid public transport at peak times.

Government will shortly publish guidance on how to travel safely, which schools, parents and young people can refer to when planning their travel, particularly if public transport is required.

If your child is currently eligible for Home to School Transport, this service will continue to be provided. We are working with our Home to School Transport providers to look at how the guidance can be implemented to ensure that those pupils returning can do in a safe manner. Providers will be undertaking risk assessments to ensure control measures are in place to maintain social distancing, cleaning and infection control for example. 

We will be working with schools to also understand which pupils will be returning to school so we can work out the logistics of continuing to provide a service in a safe manner with providers. 

If parents or carers who are eligible for Home to School Transport can transport their child to school, we would ask that you consider this and a Personal Transport Budget could be put in place on a temporary arrangement. If parents would prefer this option please contact the Transport Team on Transport.Team@southtyneside.gov.uk or 0191 427 2689.

This will not affect your application for transport for the 2020/21 academic year or any future provision of Home to School transport.

Will schools provide meals for children on site?

Yes. Schools will provide meals for all children in school, and meals should be available free of charge where pupils meet the free school meal (FSM) eligibility criteria.

To ensure food is available for pupils who attend, educational settings will reopen their kitchens and ensure that meals are able to be prepared and served safely.

Do we still need to provide free school meals for those children not attending school?

Yes. The current arrangements for children eligible for free school meals but not in school will continue.

Should face masks be worn by my child in school?

No. Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended.

Should social distancing be in place in the classroom and around the school?

Schools will keep children and young people in small groups and minimise the amount of furniture and equipment in rooms in order to adhere to government guidelines on social distancing.

While groups in 'bubbles' should be kept apart, brief, transitory contact, such as passing in a corridor, is low risk. However, one-way systems, or place a divider down the middle of the corridor to keep groups apart as they move through the setting will all be considered in the risk assessments.

How will schools manage shared areas?

Halls, dining areas, internal and external sports facilities will be used for lunch and exercise at half capacity.

Class groups are likely to take staggered breaks between lessons. These areas can be shared as long as different groups do not mix (and especially do not play sports or games together) and adequate cleaning between groups will be in place.

What will happen if a child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

If a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days. Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days.

All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus and will be encouraged to get tested in this scenario.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class bubble will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that bubble subsequently develops symptoms.

Is it essential to re-open on 1st June if a school feels they need more time to prepare?

All schools have been asked to begin their risk assessment, planning and preparation as soon as possible.

If through that risk assessment process, the school Governing Body determines that they are not able to safely expand the numbers of children on site then it is not essential to open for the expanded cohort from 1st June .

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