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Teachers and other school workers have been busy over the summer months preparing for the arrival of students back into classrooms.

With the majority of schools now back open, what does this mean for parents and pupils?

Headteachers and policy makers have been facing the difficult task of deciding on new schedules, physically altering classrooms and corridors and communicating with parents, students and staff.

The Government has stated that the risk of Covid 19 to children is low, relative to the rest of the population, and that it believes that the balance of risk has tipped in favour of reopening schools. Closure, they argue, risks children’s future opportunity and, crucially, their mental health.

So, what guidance has the Government provided to education establishments? All schools are expected to reopen, although some (around 3%) have indicated they will be operating a phased reopening. Children must return and Department for Education powers allow head teachers to issue sanctions, even possibly fines, for parents of children who do not return without adequate reason.

There are various controls in place which include:

  1. Minimising contact with those who are unwell
  2. Wearing face coverings, where recommended
  3. Cleaning hands more frequently and thoroughly
  4. Ensuring good respiratory hygiene
  5. Enhancing cleaning
  6. Minimising contact and ensuring social distancing, where possible
  7. Wearing PPE, where necessary

Controls 1-5 must be in place in all schools, all the time.

The National Association of Head Teachers said that 97% of schools will be opening at the start of term, so what should children and parents be prepared for? Firstly, schedule changes will be very likely in all schools. Many will be operating staggered start and finish times, as well as lesson lengths changing. This is to ensure a safe flow of students to and from their classrooms, avoiding mixing in corridors and elsewhere. ‘Bubbles’ will be set, with some schools basing them on individual classes and other choosing to cluster whole year groups together.

Catering changes are also likely. Some schools may be operating packed lunches, canteen deliveries, or encouraging children to bring their own food, should the circumstances permit. Lunch and break times will also be staggered to allow bubbles to move risk-free around school premises.

Many sports will be affected, especially contact sports, and large gatherings including assemblies or collective worship will be kept to individual bubbles.

Secondary school pupils will now have to wear face coverings in school corridors, in local lockdown areas. The Government issued new guidance on this on the 26 August, citing updated advice from the World Health Organisation. Masks will not be required in classrooms, however, the decision to wear a one anyway is up to the child themselves.

What will happen if there is an outbreak?

Two or more cases within any 14-day period will qualify as an outbreak, or if there is an increase in the number of children absent with suspected Covid-19. If an outbreak is presumed, the local authority will likely arrange for testing to be carried out, firstly with the affected class, year group or whole school. The Department for Education confirmed that all schools would be supplied 10 testing kits for use when no other testing options are available.

The Government has indicated that closing schools due to an outbreak should not be necessary, but schools should have home working plans in place for those who may need to self-isolate at home.

How can you help your child?

It is important to help them get used to a new routine, both at home and at school. Many will be dealing with some level of anxiety about returning to the classroom, just as many adults are with returning to the workplace. You should have been made aware of what your school’s plan is, so make sure you communicate it fully with your child and answer any questions they might have.

Many children will now spend more time indoors, so giving them a physical outlet in the evenings (or even before school) will help them burn of excess energy and take part in activities that they might be prohibited from doing in school.

How can private tuition help?

If you decide to go down the route of Elective Home Education, or to supplement your child’s school-provided education, tutoring can help fill in the gaps. The impact of schedule changes is that overall lesson times will likely be lower, coupled with the need to catch up on what students may have missed in the summer term. Tuition, which can occur both face-to-face, subject to precautions being taken, as well as online, can help get students back up to speed and in a position to conquer the year ahead. The flexibility and convenience of private tuition also means that it can fit in around the lifestyles of parents, which may have changed considerably since the early months of 2020.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about private tuition to support your child’s learning, then contact the Think Tutors team at info@thinktutors.com.