Boy in playground

Returning to nursery or school in September - what parents need to know

The wait is over.

Children have returned to nursery and Reception full time for the autumn term.

Although many children have been able to attend nurseries and childminders since 1 June, many others have not attended childcare or spent much time back in Reception since March.

The prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) has decreased since schools restricted their opening to most pupils in March and the scientific evidence shows that coronavirus presents a much lower risk to children than adults of becoming severely ill.

Although more is understood about the virus and the measures needed to make environments safer, there will still be risks while Covid-19 remains in the community.

To manage the risks things will be a bit different in the new term.

Nurseries, childminders and schools will have all put in a range of measures to help reduce the risks and these will have been communicated to you already by your provider or school.

But if you'd like more information on what the Department for Education (DfE) is advising you can read more about it below in our Q and A or read the guidance in full here

Does my child have to attend a nursery or childminder?

Whether your child attends nursery, a childminder or another early years provider is your decision, but the DfE would encourage you to take up a place for your child as attending childcare can help provide a routine as young children develop their social skills.

Does my child have to go back to school?

Yes. School attendance is mandatory from the beginning of the new academic year. This means that it is your legal duty as a parent to send your child (if they are of compulsory school age) to school regularly.

However, if your child has found lockdown exceptionally difficult or if you have concerns about your child returning to school because of other risk factors, you should discuss these with your school. They should be able to explain ways they are changing things to reduce risks. You can only delay your child's return if you have discussed it with the school in advance.

There are resources to support you with these conversations, including this leaflet on returning to school after a period of absence.

What happens about travel during school holidays?

As usual, you should plan your holidays within school holidays. Avoid taking your children out of school during term time if you can.

Keep in mind that you and your children may need to self-isolate when you return from a trip overseas.

What can nurseries and schools do to minimise the risk of spreading the virus?

The DfE has asked nurseries, childminders and schools to:

  • manage confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in line with current public health guidance - this means your child may be asked to self-isolate for 14 days by their provider or school (based on advice from their local health protection teams) if they have been in close, face-to-face contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus
  • ensure that everyone cleans their hands more often than usual, including when they arrive, when they return from breaks, and before and after eating - this should be done for 20 seconds with soap and running water or hand sanitiser
  • promote the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach, to ensure good respiratory hygiene
  • enhance cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces more often.

Nurseries and childminders will also minimise contact between people where they can. This could mean using different rooms for different age groups and keeping those groups apart.

Because younger children cannot maintain social distancing, for younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older children, it will be on distancing.

What should I be doing to minimise the risks?

Do not send your child to their nursery, childminder, school or college if:

Arrange a test if you or your child develops symptoms and inform your nursery, childminder or school of the results.

If the test is positive, follow guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, and engage with the NHS Test and Trace process.

It is really important you help nurseries, childminders and schools to implement these actions by following the public health advice and guidance.

Do I need to wash my child's uniform every day?

Schools decide their own uniform policy but the DfE says you do not need to clean uniforms differently or any more often than usual because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Does my child need to wear a face covering?

No. The latest evidence and advice is that only children aged 12 and over should wear a mask where social distancing cannot be safely managed and there is widespread transmission in the area.

Nationwide, the DfE is not recommending face coverings are necessary in nurseries, childminders or schools. This is because the approaches childcare providers are putting in place already reduce the health risks.

In primary schools where social distancing is not possible in areas outside of classrooms between members of staff or visitors, for example in staffrooms, headteachers will have the discretion to decide whether to ask staff or visitors to wear, or agree to them wearing face coverings in these circumstances.

Can I use public transport to take my child to nursery or school?

If possible, you should look for alternative transport options, especially walking or cycling, particularly at peak times to help ensure there is enough public transport capacity to allow those who need to use it to travel safely. It will also benefit your family’s health. See the guidance from:

If you and your child rely on public transport to get to their nursery, childminder or school, the safer travel guidance for passengers will apply.

In some areas, local authorities may be providing extra dedicated school transport services to help children and young people get to school or college.

You and your child must not travel to nursery, childminders or school if you or a member of your household has symptoms of Covid-19.

What will my child be learning when they go back?

The DfE has set out what they expect schools to teach pupils this autumn term but there may need to be changes to some subjects, such as PE and music, so that schools can teach these subjects as safely as possible.

Schools will also make plans for providing remote education if needed so if your child needs to stay at home, due to shielding or self-isolation, your school should support them to continue learning.

Will assessments in primary schools still go ahead?

The DfE is planning for the early years foundation stage (EYFS) profile and all existing statutory primary assessments to return in the 2020 to 2021 academic year, following their usual timetable.


You can read the DfE guidance in full here: What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term


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