Back to school

Returning to school FAQs

Why is it important for all children and young people to go back to school in September?

We all know that school is the best place for our children and young people to learn and to develop a range of skills, which will serve them well in every aspect of their lives. Being at school enables children and young people to develop social connections and a sense of identity. In addition, schools support students with their mental and physical wellbeing, which is even more important than usual during the pandemic.

What has been done to make our schools as safe as possible for the return?

Schools and the local authority have been working to make schools as safe as possible for staff and pupils. Schools and colleges have been carrying out risk assessments in order to determine what protective measures need to be put in place and how best to implement them. These include the following:

  • Introducing safe ways to move around the school  in order to minimise contact;
  • Putting markings on the floor to support distancing;
  • Using signs and posters, for example, to remind everyone about the importance of good hygiene measures (including washing hands regularly);
  • A thorough and regular cleaning regime throughout the school;
  • Making changes to the times for starting and finishing;
  • Making specific arrangements for how you drop off and collect your child; and
  • Minimising contact and maintaining distance, as far as possible. 

Will things be the same in every school?

No, not necessarily. This is because school and college risk assessments have to take account of the differences in the layout of the buildings, the amount of space available, both inside and outside and the available staffing, for example. It is important to remember that whilst things may not be exactly the same in every school/college, all schools and colleges have followed the advice and guidance from the government and Public Health to put in place the appropriate measures.

The government guidance to parents/carers sets out what they have asked schools and colleges to do. The government guidance recognises that younger children may not be able to maintain social distancing so it is likely that for primary schools and younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, while for older children, there will be an emphasis on social distancing.

Will my child have to wear a face covering in school?

In line with government guidance, secondary school pupils will be expected to wear face-coverings on public transport when travelling to and from school, and in some areas of the school/college. Each secondary school/college will provide more detailed guidance on how and where face coverings should be worn. There is also guidance on exemptions for certain circumstances.

What arrangements are being put in place for children with Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities?

All schools are preparing for children with SEND to return to school and, where needed, are putting in place additional measures based on the needs of the children attending their school. We recommend parents contact their school for further information.

What if I have questions about the arrangements at my child’s school/college?

Schools will be providing information to keep you updated, but if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your school or college.

Do I have to send my child back to school in September and what will happen if I don’t?

The government has made it clear that school attendance will be compulsory again from 1st September. This means that you have a legal duty as parents or carers to send your child to school. In the guidance to parents/carers about the return to school the government makes reference to the range of powers that local authorities and schools have to enforce attendance where there is no valid reason for the absence.

Schools and colleges are working closely with families to support their students with the return in September. If you or your child is anxious about returning to school, or they have been affected by loss or stress due to COVID-19, please contact your school to discuss a personalised return plan.

We want to be clear that in Newham we do not intend to implement measures such as penalty notices or fines for non-attendance from the beginning of term. Where there are specific issues the local authority will be working closely with schools to support you and your child to return to school and will be taking a staged approach to encouraging and facilitating attendance. Future decisions about the use of any enforcement measures will be made on a case-by-case basis.

If your child is unable to attend school because you are following clinical and/or public health advice you will not be penalised for the absence.

What about travelling to and from school/college?

The government is encouraging children and young people to walk or cycle to school/college, wherever possible. If you need to take public transport to get to and from school, make sure to have a face covering (if over 11 years old), hand sanitiser, and keep social distancing as much as possible.

This will also support the Healthy School Streets programme. Find out more about this on our Healthy Schools Streets.

How do schools/colleges know what to do if a child or adult appears to have symptoms while on-site?

There is clear guidance and advice to schools and colleges about the protocols schools and colleges should follow in these circumstances. Direct advice will be given about what is required, including contacting all relevant parties.

What can I do to support my child’s school/college in keeping it as safe as possible for staff and pupils?

  • There are several things you and your child(ren) can do to make sure schools and colleges stay safe places:
  • Read the information provided by your school, and make sure your child(ren) know what to expect
  • Make sure the school/college has the most up to date contact details for you in case they need to get in touch
  • Only contact the school by phone or email, and not in person, unless previously arranged with the school
  • Remind your child(ren) to wash their hands regularly, maintain social distancing, and wear face coverings where required
  • Keep your children home from school if they, someone in your household, or someone they have spent time with has COVID-19 symptoms. Book a test as soon as possible by visiting or calling 119   
          - If someone has been contacted by the NHS Test & Trace service and told to self-isolate those they have spent time with recently may need to as well
  • Limit what you bring to school to what is necessary for the day
  • Remind your child(ren) to not share items or food with friends and classmates