The thought of returning to school will bring up mixed emotions for many children and young people and their families. After several months away it will be a big transition, and school life will look and feel different to how it was before the schools closed.
Your child may be worried about getting back into the routine of school after such a long time, or they might be worried about being behind with their learning. They may also be excited to see their friends and for things to slowly start to feel more normal again.
Adapting to the change may be more difficult for pupils with additional support needs who might need more or different help to prepare for going back to school. For example, some children could need a longer transition period back into school or may benefit from social stories to help them understand any new school rules.
There will also be pupils who did not have any additional support needs before the schools closed, but who now need extra help. For example, pupils who have experienced a bereavement, or whose family circumstances have changed due to a parent losing their income. Others might be feeling anxious about family members who are key workers and need extra support to cope with this.
As part of their planning, schools and nurseries should be considering the individual needs and circumstances of pupils with additional support needs. Wellbeing and mental health will be a big focus for the whole school when they go back, but schools should especially think about what this means for pupils with additional support needs.
Schools and nurseries have been busy planning for your child to go back in August. They may have shared information with you about their plans for ‘blended learning’ in case they are needed. including which days your child would be attending and what things staff would do to help them get used to all the new rules. Now that the plan is for most children to return to school full-time in August, these blended learning plans might not be needed, though it is likely that many of the safety measures like increased hand washing will still happen.
If you have already been given information by the school or nursery, you can spend time with your child going through it and helping them understand what things might be like in August. If your child needs extra support to understand the information that has been sent out, or if they need it in a different format, the school or nursery should provide this. It is important to let the school or nursery know if the information you have been given is not accessible for your child.
If you do not yet know what the arrangements will be for your child, but you think there are specific things the school or nursery will need to take into account in their planning, it is important to speak to them about this. For example, if you think your child will need a longer transition period to slowly build up their time at school, or to have access to the school when very few people are there to get used to the new layout and rules.
If your child has a support plan, you could ask if this is being used and reviewed as part of the planning. If your child has healthcare needs, it is important that the school or nursery works with you and any relevant health professionals to review the arrangements they have in place for things like what to do in an emergency or if your child falls ill, or how to give them medication or intimate care that they need.
A big part of planning for the return to school will be you speaking to your child and supporting any worries they have about going back. Reach, our website for children and young people, may be a helpful starting point for you to discuss returning to school with your child. Salvesen Mindroom Centre have also produced a Back to School Toolkit.
Lots of children and young people will be feeling nervous about going back to school after a long time away. There are lots of different reasons why your child may feel this way, for example they could be worried about catching coronavirus or giving it to someone at home, they may have been having a difficult time at school before the closures, they might be enjoying being at home with family, or may not want another big change in their routine.
Whatever the reason your child is feeling worried about going back into school, it is important to let the school know early so that they can work with both of you to address their concerns. For example, the school might be able to spend some extra time explaining the ways they are going to be keeping everyone as safe as they can from coronavirus.
Your child still has the right to extra support with their learning, and this includes the support they need to be able to attend school. The support they usually get is likely to look different to usual, but the school should still do what they can to help your child overcome barriers to attending school.
If your child is not able to go back to school at the same time as others, for example if they are shielding, see our section ‘My child is not able to return to school’.
It is possible that your child’s school or nursery are still working out the details of what things will look like for your child and how to prepare them for this. They should communicate their plans with you once they are able to. If you are not feeling happy with what has been arranged so far, there are a few steps you can take.
It may be best to put your concerns in writing to the school or nursery. This will give you the chance to think through what your main worries or questions are, and will give staff the chance to give a more detailed reply. You could also ask for a phone or video meeting to talk things through.
If you are still not feeling happy after this, our factsheet on Avoiding and solving problems explains what other things you can do. Because of coronavirus, there might be delays to some of these steps so it might be most helpful to focus on working together with the school or nursery.
If you have any other questions about preparing for your child to go back to school or nursery, or if you would like advice about your situation, please contact our helpline.