Schools and colleges reopened in March 2021

From 8 March 2021, schools and colleges resumed on-site teaching and all primary schools reopened.

Secondary schools will notify parents and students of their phased return arrangements during the first week, allowing them flexibility to consider how best to deliver asymptomatic testing.

School and college attendance is compulsory for all pupils from 8 March, except those who are clinically vulnerable or self-isolating.

Why it is safe to return

The reopening of education settings is being prioritised due to the significant and proven benefits to mental and physical health for children and young people.

Evidence from the Public Health England-led Schools Infection Study continues to show that infection rates in schools mirror infection rates in the wider community.

PHE’s Surveillance in Schools study (sKIDS) suggests that transmission in primary schools is extremely low and outbreaks are rare.

To provide further reassurance, guidelines that schools were following before Christmas to keep students and staff safe have been strengthened and now include:

  • Mask wearing for all Year 7 and above pupils and staff inside school, including classrooms
  • Recommendations for rapid lateral flow testing of staff in all schools and colleges, and pupils in secondary schools and colleges to be carried out when they return, with parent/carer consent. After that, testing kits will be supplied to families so that tests can be carried out at home, twice a week. Testing is voluntary and pupils do not have to participate in order to attend school.
  • Recommendations for twice-weekly rapid lateral flow testing for households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary age pupils and staff. You may be able to access testing through your employer. You can also take a test at your local site, order home test kits online or collect up to four home test kits at a local collection point. For further information, see Rapid lateral flow testing for households and bubbles of school pupils and staff.

These additional measures will support existing controls such as enhanced cleaning, maintaining social distance wherever possible, and ventilation of occupied areas to ensure schools and colleges can operate safely.

Your child should not attend nursery, childminder, school or college if:

  • they are showing one or more coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or if you child feels unwell and you are unsure
  • someone in their household is showing symptoms
  • someone in their support bubble has symptoms and they have been in close contact with them since the symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started
  • they or someone in their household has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • they are required to quarantine having recently visited a red list travel ban country.

Covid-19 tests

If you or your child develop symptoms:

  • Book a test
  • Inform your nursery, childminder, school or college of the results.

If the test is positive:

Other household members (including any siblings) should self-isolate from the day your child’s symptoms started (or the day they took a test if they did not have symptoms), and the next 10 full days.

If your child or someone in your household has tested positive while not experiencing symptoms but develops symptoms during the isolation period, they should restart the 10 day isolation period from the day they developed symptoms.

If your child displays symptoms, or has a positive test, while at school or college they should not use public transport and, wherever possible, be collected by a member of their family or household. In exceptional circumstances, if you cannot arrange to have your child collected and they cannot walk, cycle or scoot home, alternative arrangements may need to be organised by the nursery, childminder, school or college.

Your child does not need a test if they:

  • are advised to self-isolate because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), for example, another pupil in their class, but are not showing symptoms themselves.

Support for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Schools must provide additional support for children who are worried and who may struggle to understand the changes and rules. Take advantage of the extra help to settle back into routines. Children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) have been able to attend school throughout the recent lockdown and local support services for children with SEND are available to provide ongoing support.

Why is it important for my child to return to school?

Getting back to school is important to ensure that all children and young people can progress positively with their learning and development. With the right support at home and at school, returning to school will bring a range of benefits for children and young people. However, if you’re worried about how lockdown has affected the social, emotional and mental health of a child with SEND, you can leave a message with the Educational Psychology Service (EPS) helpline, and an Educational Psychologist will call you back. Phone: 01273 481967

Will my child with SEND be given the additional support they need in their transition back into school?

If your child receives additional support for their SEN, your school SENCo is your go-to person for any queries about returning to school. If you’re unable to contact your child’s school before the start of term, or if you still have concerns, you can call the Family Information Service: 0345 60 80 192

Schools and colleges are committed to working collaboratively with pupils, parents, and other agencies to ensure all therapies and support that would normally be in place for your child are being delivered. The requirement for schools within the 2014 Children and Families Act to use their best endeavours to secure the special educational provision called for by the pupils’ special educational needs remains in place.

What do I do if my child or young person is refusing to return to school?

Schools and ISEND Services can help and support families with attendance, but if you have any questions, please contact the Education, Support, Behaviour and Attendance Service (ESBAS) helpline. Phone: 01273 481967

Other support and information

Our Facebook pages are updated regularly with support and advice for parents. There are resources and activities, plus support for talking to your child about the changes in their lives:

  • ISEND - Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability Services
  • CLASS+ - support for families and carers of young people with ASD (autistic spectrum disorder)
  • i-go - leisure activities and discounts for people with SEND

Travelling to school

Please consider walking or cycling as these are usually the safest options.

If you travel in by car try to avoid the dropping off at the main entrance to avoid any extra congestion.

Travelling by public transport, school bus, minibus or taxi

If you travel in by public transport (bus or train), coach, minibus or taxi bus, these are some important things you need to know:

  • children aged 11 and over should wear a covering on all school transport if they can. Younger children who can, should too. If your child has a reason which makes them exempt, please let your school know
  • you should wash your hands before and after boarding
  • there will be no standing
  • please sit with others in your bubble or year group where possible
  • if you can, please keep your distance between students not in your bubble, as well as other passengers
  • windows and sunroofs will be kept open where possible to help with ventilation
  • bus services that are available to students only, will continue to charge fares, though students issued with a free bus pass will not pay
  • please pay the exact bus fare to reduce cash handling – Stagecoach, Brighton & Hove and Metrobus do not provide cash change
  • some companies now offer contactless payments by prepaid card, debit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay – these are Stagecoach, Compass Travel, Brighton & Hove, Metrobus and Autocar.

The rail operators will share the latest travel advice and guidance via live messenger. To help you plan your journey please check the Southern, Thameslink and National Rail pages show the busiest trains to avoid, and you can get live Messenger alerts and a live service status map.

Remember to check the following page regularly for updates, Back to school bus service changes, which includes details on individual school service changes.

Walking, cycling or scooting to school

With the need for social distancing, walking or wheeling can be a good way to get about, especially for shorter journeys or part of longer journeys.

If you have any questions please email


GCSE and A level exams will be awarded by the people who know your child best. Teachers will make an assessment based on a broad range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework and essays. Schools will submit grades for all pupils by 18 June, and exam results will be released earlier than usual, on 9 August to allow for appeals.

Education support package

Following the announcement of the roadmap which laid out the easing of restrictions, the government has announced further elements of the support package so children and young people can progress their learning and development following the pandemic.

This support package will focus on expanding one-to-one and small tutoring programmes, supporting the development of programmes for disadvantaged children in early years settings, and establishing summer provision for pupils who require it.

Early years and childcare

Early years and childcare settings have been open since June but during lockdown parents may have chosen to keep their children at home.

Returning to childcare is vital for children’s education and wellbeing. Time out from their nursery or childminder setting can affect a child’s development, especially for disadvantaged children. It can also affect their self-confidence and the positive relationships they have built with the special people and other children.

What will my childcare setting be like?

Risk assessments will keep you and your child as safe as possible.

Enhanced, regular cleaning will be carried out.

Drop off and pick up times may look a little different as they may be staggered, and you will be asked to drop your child off at the door unless it’s essential for you to go in. All parents entering a setting will need to wear a mask.

Staff are not required to wear PPE unless a child becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms whilst at the setting, and only then if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.

The learning environment will look slightly different due to the removal of soft furnishings, cuddly toys, cushions and some other toys, as these are hard to clean.

Should my child go back to their early years setting?

If your child has a place reserved, the setting will be waiting with exciting activities planned for your child!

Funding is available for some 2 year olds, and all 3 and 4 year olds, see Help with childcare costs. Ask your early years setting for information on funded places and don’t forget to communicate any concerns, so that staff can support you and find a solution that suits everyone.

Find an early years setting for your child.

Tips for parents on children returning to school

School will be different now and your children may be feeling anxious. Here are some tips for parents on how best to prepare them.

Make time to talk about their worries

  • Listen to and acknowledge their concerns. Try not to make assumptions, dismiss or minimise their fears – but validate how they are feeling. It is completely normal to feel a mixture of emotions
  • Reassure them it’s healthy to talk about worries and emotions; praise them for sharing them with you
  • Your child’s emotions will change regularly and that’s okay. In the run-up to returning check in with them by making time for little conversations about going back to school.

Help your child prepare for changes

  • Worries and anxious thoughts can happen if your child feels out of control. Explain things will look different – but tell your child not to worry, because the teachers have been thinking about how to make school safe and will help you get used to the new layouts and routines
  • Remind them of all the ways they can keep themselves safe: washing their hands regularly, sneezing and coughing into their elbow, not hugging others and staying in their own space
  • It can also be reassuring to talk about things that haven’t changed – like wearing the same uniform, there will be break-time and lunch and they will see the same people at school.

Re-establish routines

  • It is natural for parents to be anxious about the return to school – your child will take their emotional cues from you, so it is important to manage your own emotions well. Remain calm, speak kindly, reassure them and be steady and supportive
  • Families relaxed their rules and routines during lockdown – talk to your children about easing back into routines. Gradually get them back into their usual mealtime, screen time, morning and bedtime routines as they get closer to their return date.

Help them have excitement for the future

  • At a time like this, it can be hard to feel positive, but identifying the things that they can look forward to will help them realise that the current situation won’t last forever
  • Help your child think of positive things like being with their friends, seeing their teacher or doing their favourite activities.

Take care of yourself

  • It is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed or worried about sending your children back to school
  • Be kind to yourself – make sure you build in time for activities you find help clear your stress
  • If you are in an emotionally strong place you can support your child better with their own emotions.

Seek support

  • If your child is experiencing difficulties at school – reach out to the school as soon as you can, make them aware of the challenges and work together to support your child
  • If you are worried about your child’s mental health and you think you need professional support, speak to the school and your GP about the best next steps.

For more information please see the Open for Parents website.

Contact Children's Services

If you need urgent advice, please call 0345 60 80 192, lines are open Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm, or email the Children’s Services customer relations team.

Links to help and support for parents