Back to school on 08 March: What Oxfordshire’s parents need to know

Back to school on 08 March: What parents and carers need to know

Back to school on 08 March

Teachers and support staff in Oxfordshire's schools are looking forward to all pupils returning to school next week, with all necessary COVID-safe procedures in place. They’re delighted that every child will once again benefit from lively, interactive classroom learning. As students head back to school for face-to-face teaching, here's just about all you need to know.

First, we need to highlight that the experts, including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, have 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.

All primary pupils should head back to school from Monday 08 March. Secondary and further education pupils will commence a staggered return from 08 March with the offer of testing. Those who consent to testing should return to face-to-face education following their first negative test result.

If you or your child (if they are aged over 18) do not consent, they will not be stopped from going back and will return in line with their school or college’s arrangements. The testing programme is for everyone’s protection, and we hope everyone will take part in other to keep everyone safe.

To continue to manage the risks, including when all children and students return, nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges will continue to implement the range of protective measures that they have been using throughout the autumn term. We have further strengthened these measures to help decrease the disruption the virus causes to education. Current evidence suggests that these measures are still the right ones to take.

Oxfordshire’s schools will be following national guidance on COVID safety and will have a suite of measures in place.

Protective measures in Nurseries and primary school

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.

Protective measures in secondary schools and colleges

Upon return, from 08 March, all secondary aged pupils and students in school and college (year 7 and above) should take a test 4 times - 3 times on-site at the school or college’s testing site, and the fourth at home using a home test kit. The first 3 tests should be taken 3 to 5 days apart. Once pupils and students have had one negative test result, they can return to school or college.

COVID-19 Lateral Flow Tests
COVID-19 Lateral Flow Tests

After this, 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 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.

If your child tests positive, they will need to:

  • self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance (if they test positive at school, you should arrange for them to be collected)
  • book a further test (a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test) to confirm the result, if the test was done at home

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.

Alongside asymptomatic testing, secondary schools and colleges will continue to put in place a range of protective measures to minimise the risk of infection spread. All existing protective measures set out in government guidance, including social distancing, handwashing, face coverings where needed, and bubbles, remain important, and the need for these is not lessened.

Other proactive measures

Staggered start & finish times or drop-off and pick-up times

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

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. Many parents will be keen to catch up with one another after lockdown, but please ensure you observe social distancing to ensure everyone is kept safe.

Wearing face coverings in schools and colleges

In schools and colleges where pupils and students in year 7 and above are educated, 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. In these schools and colleges, the recommendation is that face coverings should be worn in classrooms and during activities unless social distancing can be maintained.

Face coverings should be worn by everyone outside of classrooms
Face coverings should be worn by everyone outside of classrooms

Wearing face-coverings when travelling to and from school and college

Most children and young people aged 11 and over are now required to wear face-covering on public transport. So if your child is aged 11 or over, they must wear a face covering when travelling on dedicated transport to secondary school or college, unless they are exempt.

If your child needs to share a car to school or college with someone outside of their support bubble or household, they should:

  • share with the same people each time
  • open the windows for ventilation
  • wear a face covering if they are aged 11 or over

Managing cases in nurseries, schools and colleges

Nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges will take swift action when they become aware that someone who has attended has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). They will contact their local health protection team if they:

  • have 2 or more confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) among pupils or staff within 14 days
  • see an overall rise in child or staff absence rates where coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected
  • The local health protection team will advise what action is required. Closure of the school will not usually be necessary, but some groups may need to self-isolate.

Proactive actions you should take

You should not send your child to school or college if they:

  • are showing one or more coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms
  • live in a household with someone who is showing symptoms
  • have tested positive themselves, even if they do not have symptoms
  • live in a household with someone who has tested positive, even if that person does not have symptoms
  • are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • are required to self-isolate for travel-related reasons

What to do if your child tests positive

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.

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.

Isolate and engage with NHS Test and Trace if your child tests positive
Household should self-isolate and engage with NHS Test and Trace if your child, or someone in your household, tests positive

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.

Self-isolation for those identified as vulnerable

A small number of children and young people may be unable to attend in line with public health advice to self-isolate. You should have received a letter stating that your child is Critically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV).

For further information and guidance to help you plan for your children’s return back to school on 08 March, please visit gov.uk/backtoschool