Not all children and young people will be able to return to school at the same time as other pupils. It might feel strange for them to see their classmates and teachers returning, when they are not able to. It is important that your child’s school thinks about what this will be like for your child and considers their wellbeing, as well as making sure they are still supported with their learning at home.
There are a few different reasons why your child may not be able to return to school in August at the same time as other pupils.
If your child has an underlying health condition that means they are at greater risk from coronavirus, they may not be able to return to school in August. The current medical guidance states that if your child’s health condition means they are ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ and they need to follow shielding guidance, they should not be regularly attending school. There is more information on whether your child’s medical condition means they fall into this category from the NHS Inform coronavirus guidance on shielding.
If your child does not need to follow shielding guidance, but they have a health condition that means they are ‘clinically vulnerable’ to coronavirus, their school should do an individual risk assessment to help decide if they can safely return to school. Depending on your child’s needs, there may be steps the school can take to reduce the risks and make it safe enough for your child to return. If this is not possible, your child may not be able to return to school in August. There is more information on whether your child’s health condition makes them ‘clinically vulnerable’ from the NHS Inform coronavirus guidance on physical distancing.
If your child lives with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and needs to follow shielding guidance, they should only go to school if everyone agrees it is safe enough. After doing an individual risk assessment for your child, if the school decide the risks are too high, then your child should not return to school in August and should continue learning from home.
If your child was not regularly attending school before the lockdown, you may have questions about what the schools reopening in August will mean for them.
Children and young people who normally learn in school must attend regularly and shouldn’t miss school without a reasonable excuse. You have a legal duty to make sure your child gets a ‘suitable and efficient’ education from when they are five years old until they turn 16. During coronavirus, this normal legal duty has been suspended if you have not been able to send your child to school because it has been closed. However, when the schools reopen, you will need to make sure your child gets a suitable education and attends school on the days they have been asked to.
Some children cannot always attend school regularly. For example, because they are ill or are caring for a family member at home. These children have the same right to an education as other children and the school should support them to attend whenever they can, and to access their learning in another way when they are not able to physically be at school.
When a pupil has missed a lot of school, it can be difficult to return. For example, they might be worried about their peers asking why they have been off school, or concerned about whether they will be able to catch up with what they have missed.
If your child was absent from school before the school closures, for example if they were struggling with their mental health and anxious about attending school, this may be a good opportunity to support them to start attending again. It will not be just them returning after a long time away, almost all pupils will be in a similar position and returning after a number of months off school. Pupils will all be at different stages of their learning, as everyone will have had different experiences of trying to learn at home. This means your child will not be on their own in needing some extra support with their learning – lots of their peers will too. Also, some pupils may initially only return to school on a part-time basis. This may be less intense than trying to return to school full-time after a long absence.
If you feel your child will need extra or different support to help them return to school in August, you can speak to the school about your concerns. As the schools are very busy at the moment planning for the reopening, it may be helpful to put your concerns in writing to give them time to properly consider how your child can be supported and get back to you when they can.
If your child is not able to return to school in August, they still have a right to an education and to get extra or different support with their learning if they need it. It is important that the school thinks about your child’s social and emotional wellbeing and tries their best to make sure your child feels included in their school community, for example by keeping in regular contact with them.
If your child needs extra help to access learning at home, the school should provide them with the support or adjustments they need.
The education they receive should support a broad, flexible curriculum that builds on their existing learning. It should suit their state of health and where they are (for example, hospital or home). It is important that the school and other professionals listen to your child’s views when they are arranging their out-of-school education.
There is more information about different resources and supports available to help your child learn at home on our page ‘Supporting your child’s learning at home during the coronavirus.’
If you are concerned that your child needs more or different support to help them with their learning while they cannot attend school, you can speak to the school. Our factsheet on Working together with your child’s school has some helpful tips for working together with the school to get the right support in place for your child. If you have already tried this and you are still worried about your child’s support, our factsheet on Avoiding and solving problems explains what other things you can do.
It may not be clear when your child will be able to return to school, for example if it will depend on updates to the current coronavirus guidance for pupils who are shielding.
Where possible your child’s school should be looking ahead and planning for supporting your child back to school when the time is right. The school should work with you, your child, and any other relevant professionals such as NHS staff, to make sure they will have the support they need, both to return to school and with their learning thereafter. You can find more information on our page ‘What support will my child get to prepare for returning to school or nursery?’.
This may include doing an individual risk assessment for your child and agreeing adaptions and supports that are needed to keep your child safe when they return. If your child needs on-going healthcare or learning support at school, you can ask for their healthcare or learning support plan to be reviewed. If they do not have a plan in place, you may want to ask the school to open one for them. There is more information on support plans in our factsheets on Planning your child’s support and Supporting pupils with healthcare needs.