COVID-19: Children, education and returning to school

Getting children back into classrooms

In line with the latest government guidance, all pupils are expected to return to school full-time when the new term begins in September. We are working closely with local schools to ensure that pupils and staff can return safely.

Why is it so important that children return to school?

Throughout lockdown, the time children have spent away from school has been detrimental to their academic and cognitive development, particularly for disadvantaged children. While teachers and parents have done a great job in ensuring learning continued while at home, classroom-based learning is vital for a child’s education and wellbeing.

This is why we need to support families in feeling confident in sending their children back to school sooner rather than later.

We know some parents will have concerns about the safety of their children and families when children are back in school. We hope the information on this site will help reassure parents and keep them up to speed with the protective measures in place for both pupils and staff.

Cleaning and hygiene measures

Extra cleaning has been arranged in schools following guidance from Public Health England’s advice, particularly of areas used by different groups and frequently touched surfaces.

Children will be encouraged to regularly wash their hands throughout the day and follow good hygiene (for example info on Catch it, Bin it, Kill it). Hand sanitiser stations will be available throughout schools.

Uniforms do not need to be cleaned any more often than usual, and the usual clothes washing methods are fine. 

Staff will be paying close attention to whether children show any symptoms of Coronavirus during the school day. If they do, they’ll be taken to a safe area and a parent or guardian will be contacted to take them home. They will be asked to get tested for Coronavirus as soon as possible.

For school-specific regulations and guidance, please contact a school directly or visit their website to learn more about the measures they are putting in place.

You can find information on all our local schools on the Council website

Travelling to and from school

We want to encourage children to walk, cycle or scoot to school wherever possible to limit usage of public transport services. We appreciate this isn’t always going to be possible, so it’s important that those who can walk, cycle or scoot do so to ensure there is capacity for those who don’t have that option.

Around 250,000 school children use London's buses to get to and from school. From 1 September until the end of October 2020, Transport for London (TfL) are adding over 200 extra buses to the network across low frequency routes (those with fewer than six buses an hour) and 600-numbered school routes.

There are no changes to free travel for children and young people in September. TfL continues to work with Government on how and when any suspension of free travel for Under 18s could take effect.

TfL have shared extensive guidance for schools on the measures in place to ensure children can get to and from school safely. If you have queries or concerns about arrangements regarding public transport, you can find out more information on the TFL website

For information on travel arrangements for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) please visit the Council’s Local Offer website. This site also features other resources relevant to children with SEND at this time that can aid their learning and readjustment.

Read more about Coronavirus safe travel at the GOV.UK website.

Reducing contact

Following guidance from the Government, schools will be working to reduce contact between groups of children and establishing social bubbles, in which members of staff will be included.

Each bubble will consist of the same adults and children, who will remain in that same bubble for the remainder of the school year. If any adult or child within the bubble tests positive for Coronavirus, the entire group must self-isolate at home.

Changes have been made to the layout of classrooms. They have been organised to allow social distancing between pupils and staff, with pupils facing forward where possible and staying at the same desk.

Equipment and resources will be cleaned regularly, and pupils and staff will have their own personal equipment where possible. Where cleaning isn’t practical, items will be left unused until the risk of transmission has passed.

Schools will continue to use outside space for learning and recreation as this is so important for children’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Schools will be able to give parents specific information about their arrangements. Contact a school or visit their website for details of how classrooms will be shared, and outside areas managed.

You can find information on all our local schools on the Council website.

Physical and mental wellbeing

While it was necessary for schools to be closed when Coronavirus lockdown first hit, the social interactions between friends, carers and teachers, which are al crucial in a child’s development and wellbeing, have undoubtedly been affected.

We understand pupils will be experiencing a variety of emotions in response to the pandemic, such as anxiety, stress or low mood. This may particularly be the case for vulnerable children, for example those with a social worker, or for young carers.

Schools have been asked how they can provide emotional care and extra-curricular activities to all pupils. This will be designed to: 

  • support the rebuilding of friendships and social engagement 
  • equip pupils to respond to issues linked to Coronavirus
  • support pupils with approaches to improving their physical and mental wellbeing 

Schools have also been asked to provide more focused emotional support for: 

  • individual pupils
  • groups already known to need additional help
  • any groups they identify as newly vulnerable on their return to school

The Council is working with schools to ensure they are equipped with resources and contacts to refer children to should they want to reach out for mental health support. The ‘Knowing your mental health’ leaflet is being promoted on digital screens around the borough and sent to schools so pupils can have physical copies. You can find this guide online – please do share it with a young person you know if you think it may be useful for them or their friends.

Contact a school or visit the school website to learn more about the measures they are putting in place.