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What you need to know about your child's return to school

What will happen when your youngster goes back to the classroom next week

It's has been a while since youngsters were in the classroom learning in front of a teacher. They are set to return on Monday, but what will it be like for them?

Education chiefs say youngsters have missed out on so much of their education and say it's vital they return to school and get the support they need to catch up on their schoolwork, so here is everything you need to know about them getting back into the classroom.

The Government's approach to schooling in lockdown has been one of the most controversial aspects of its response to the pandemic.

After initially refusing to close classrooms last March it then did, except for children of essential workers and in the summer, there were major issues with the controversial exam algorithm which saw another u-turn.

Then schools returned as planned in September but this year's exams were then pushed back – by just three weeks despite hundreds of thousands of children continuing to be sent home due to exposure to the virus.

They broke up for Christmas as planned, but some wrapped up early, then in January, another 11th hour u-turn saw many pupils, depending on where they lived, told they would not be returning to the classroom with just days until they were due to go back.

Then, a day into the start of term, another u-turn saw the same policy extended to all schools, the majority of which had returned for just a day. GCSEs, AS and A-levels were then called off.

Schools, as always, remained open during the pandemic for children of essential workers and, later due to a change in policy, this included vulnerable children.

But Boris Johnson set out his plans to reopen schools, in an address to the House of Commons on January 28.

The Prime Minister told MPs: “Reopening schools must be our national priority."

When will my child return to school?

All primary school pupils should attend school from Monday and so should secondary school pupils, but secondary aged youngsters and college and other students will be offered testing from March 8.

However, to allow the testing of pupils to be carried out, secondary schools are allowed to stagger the return over the week, so your child may not have to go in at the beginning of the week and your child's school will inform you about the time of their return.

Students will be tested three times in the first two weeks and then will be given two rapid tests to use each week at home.

How often will my child be tested?

All secondary aged youngsters and college students will be offered testing from Monday.

Students will be tested three times in the first two weeks and then will be given two rapid tests to use each week at home.

Young students will also be asked to continue using home testing kits twice a week.

School staff will also be required to take twice-weekly tests using home testing kits.

Asymptomatic testing sites will remain at schools and colleges for students unable to test at home.

Those who consent to testing will be allowed to return to face-to-face teaching, following their first negative Covid test result.

If your child is a student over the age of 18 and doesn't consent to a test, they will be stopped from going back into the classroom and schooling will be done in line with their school's or college's arrangements.

Will my child have to wear a mask in class?

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has made clear that the majority of children and young people still have no symptoms or very mild coronavirus illness only and returning to class is also deemed vital for youngsters' educational progress, wellbeing, and wider development.

Secondary schools will also continue to implement a range of protective measures, like wearing masks and not shields, to ensure the virus causes less disruption to youngsters' education.

The Government says for a 'limited period' young people and staff in higher education, further education and secondary schools will be asked to wear face coverings indoors, including classrooms, unless 2m social distancing can be preserved.

Face coverings for staff and adult visitors are also recommended in early years and primary schools when social distancing between adults is not possible – for example, when moving around corridors and communal areas.

Your child's school will give you more information about other measures they have in place.

Will bubbles and social distancing still be used in schools?

Public Health England has advised schools on the continuation of existing controls, like bubbles and social distancing, but these will also be enhanced by additional precautionary measures.

These included minimising contact with students or staff who are required to self-isolate by ensuring they do not attend school.

Advising everyone to clean their hands thoroughly and more often than usual.

Ensuring good hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach and maintaining enhanced cleaning on school and college sites.

School staff must also minimise contact across sites and and maintain social distancing where possible, including creating bubbles and asking pupils and staff to avoid public transport.

Staff and pupils must also continue to wear PPE where necessary and sites like classrooms have to be kept well ventilated, so it may be an idea to send your child in with extra layers to keep warm as windows in classrooms will probably be open during lessons.

Has my child's teacher been vaccinated yet?

Some teachers who fall into the first four priority categories for the Covid jab will have been given the vaccine already, but those who are not will have to wait in line for their age group to be called up during the national rollout.

The Government is sticking to prioritising people by age and not their occupation to avoid slowing down the jab rollout.

People aged 40 to 49 will be the next in line to get a vaccine after all vulnerable groups and the over-50s are covered.

Will after school activities and sports be allowed?

Clubs for children in school buildings, both before and after normal school hours, will also be permitted to start from Monday.

And other school activates like sports can also resume.

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