Education, childcare and work

The Department for Education has produced a guide for parents following the changes to the COVID guidelines for early years, schools and colleges on March 8.

Schools and colleges

From 8 March, all children and students should return to school and college. All primary pupils should attend school from this date. All secondary pupils and college students will be offered testing from 8 March, and those who consent to testing should return to face-to-face education following their first negative test result.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has made clear that the overwhelming majority of children and young people still have no symptoms or very mild illness only. Returning to school or college is also vital for their educational progress, for their wellbeing, and for their wider development.

Nursery and childminders

Whether your child attends nursery, a childminder or another early years setting is your decision.

Attending childcare is very important for the wellbeing and education of children, and supports families.

Check if your child is eligible for any of the free childcare entitlements through Childcare Choices. These are worth on average £2,500 a year to parents of some 2 year olds and up to £5,000 a year to parents of 3 and 4 year olds.

University

From March 8, the government has advised that Universities can resume in-person teaching and learning for undergraduate and postgraduate students who are studying practical or practice-based (including creative arts) subjects and require specialist equipment and facilities.

Face coverings

In schools and colleges with pupils and students in year 7 and above, face coverings should be worn by everyone (unless exempt) when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

Testing for people without symptoms (Asymptomatic Rapid Antigen Testing)

Your child’s nursery, school or college may be taking part in the asymptomatic testing programme. Rapid testing using lateral flow devices (LFDs) will support the return to face-to-face education by helping to identify people who are infectious but do not have any coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. Those who test positive will self-isolate, helping to reduce transmission of the virus and keeping other pupils and students in face-to-face education. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

Nurseries and primary school children

Pre-school children and primary aged pupils do not need to be regularly tested. However, staff will be taking part in the asymptomatic testing programme to help reduce transmission of the virus and keep everyone safe. PHE has advised there are currently limited public health benefits attached to testing primary pupils with LFDs. Primary age pupils, particularly younger children, may find the LFD testing process unpleasant and are unable to self-swab.

Secondary school pupils and college students

All secondary aged pupils and college students will be given home test kits and will be asked to regularly test themselves twice a week at home, 3 to 4 days apart, and report results to NHS Test and Trace, as well as with your school or college. Home testing will also be available for independent training providers and adult community learning providers from the end of March.

The home test kits will include instructions for testing and reporting results. Schools and colleges will retain their own small testing sites so that pupils who are unable to test themselves at home can still participate.

Students aged 18 and over should self-test and report the result, with assistance if needed. If your child is aged 12 to 17 they will need adult supervision to self-test and report. You or another adult may conduct the test if necessary. If your child is aged 11 and attending a secondary school, you or another adult should conduct the test.

If your child tests positive, they will need to:

Testing is voluntary and your child will not be tested unless they (if they are aged over 18) or you (or another parent or carer) have given informed consent. We strongly encourage you and your child to take part, to help us break chains of transmission and manage the virus. Your child will not be stopped from returning to school or college if you or they choose not to be tested, and will return to face-to-face education in line with their school or college’s arrangements. Anyone with symptoms, whether they are involved in this programme or not, should book a free NHS test and follow government self-isolation guidance until the results of their test are known. As above if you or your child is symptomatic please book a test through the national portal, do not use the asymptomatic home testing kit.

If you have any questions about the asymptomatic testing programme, please speak to your school or college.

Arriving at and leaving nursery, the childminder, school or college

Some nurseries, childminders, schools or colleges may need to stagger or adjust start and finish times. This helps keep groups apart as they arrive and leave the premises. If nurseries, schools or colleges choose to do this it should not reduce the amount of time they spend teaching - but it could mean that your child’s start or finish times change.

Schools and colleges will work with any school transport and other transport providers to coordinate, as necessary.

Your nursery, childminder, school or college will be in touch to set out any changes they are making. This might also include:

  • new processes for drop off and collection
  • not allowing gathering at the school gates
  • not being allowed onto the site without an appointment

Please help nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges manage these arrangements, for example by keeping your distance from others when dropping off and picking up your child.

Dedicated and public transport should continue to be in place to enable children and young people to travel to school or college.

Using public transport

Everyone needs to play their part in reducing the demand for public transport. If possible, you should look for alternative transport options, especially walking or cycling or scooting, particularly at peak times.

This will help to ensure that 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, school or college, the safer travel guidance for passengers will apply.

Going to work

You should only leave your home for work if you cannot work from home.

Where people cannot work from home they should continue to travel to their workplace.

Public sector employees working in essential services, including childcare or education, should continue to go into work.

Where it is necessary for you to work in other people’s homes - for example, for nannies, cleaners or tradespeople - you can do so. Please make sure that rooms are well ventilated and otherwise, you should avoid meeting for work in a private home or garden, where COVID-19 Secure measures may not be in place.

Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.

The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.