Last Updated 12:05pm, 26 August 2021
Returning to school and college for face-to-face teaching
Attending school is once again mandatory for all children in Devon up to the age of 16. This means that it is your legal duty as a parent to send your child (if they are of compulsory school age) to school regularly if they are registered at one.
If your child is over 16 and attends college or other training, they are not legally obliged to attend. However, their college or training provider may not continue to offer them a place if they do not attend.
Our schools are experienced at managing risk and are now well-practiced at keeping staff, children and their families safe in line with COVID-19 guidelines. If you have concerns, please discuss these with your school or college. They will be able to explain the protective measures they are using to help keep everyone safe.
All clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people should attend their education setting unless they are one of the very small number of children and young people under paediatric or other specialist care who have been advised by their clinician or other specialist not to attend.
Going to school or college is vital for children and young people’s educational progress, for their wellbeing, and for their wider development.
What safety measures are in place?
Schools no longer need to keep children in consistent groups (‘bubbles’) or to keep groups apart. This means that assemblies and larger group activities can resume.
However if there is an outbreak in your nursery, school, or college, or if your nursery, school, or college becomes part of an enhanced response area, you might be advised that it is necessary to reintroduce bubbles or to keep groups apart for a temporary period to reduce mixing between groups.
We would encourage you to follow any requests from your individual nursery, school or college.
As Devon has been given Enhanced Response Area (ERA) status, secondary school pupils and all education staff are being asked to return to wearing face coverings in communal areas. This will be reviewed after 2 weeks.
Face coverings should continue to be worn on public transport and dedicated transport to school or college.
Staying safe on your journey to school
We have been working closely with transport providers and schools and colleges since last summer to ensure that school transport is as safe as possible.
This includes providing around 70 duplicate services to create additional capacity across the county at peak times for students who travel to and from school or college on the bus or train, where social distancing measures remain in place.
Exeter College students who use rail services, are encouraged to consider using the rail replacement coaches which have been laid on for them – this will help rail staff to maintain social distancing on rail services to and from college. More details about all these services can be found on the Travel Devon website.
Students aged 11 years old and over must wear face coverings at all times on dedicated school transport for their own safety, as well as the safety of their fellow passengers. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport as part of the government’s measures to combat COVID-19, and we’re operating a ‘two strikes’ policy whereby students found not wearing a face covering by the school or transport operator on two occasions (if they are not exempt from using one) will be refused travel for a period of time.
The majority of children travelling on special educational needs (SEN) transport are exempt from wearing face coverings. However, passengers with special education needs who can wear a face covering are encouraged to do so.
All secondary schools and colleges can issue our exemption cards for exempt students upon parental request. Failure to produce this exemption card when boarding school transport without a face covering could result in a warning and ultimately a refusal to allow the student onto the vehicle. Special educational needs school students will not require an exemption card.
Now that spring is here and the weather has started to improve, some families might also choose to walk, scoot or cycle rather than use school transport.
Travel Devon has some top tips for cycling to school on their website where you can also find maps of local cycling routes. Bikeability has some really useful information including tips for cycling safely during the coronavirus pandemic and cycling skills for families.
Vaccination information for children and young people
The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. Find out more about the vaccine and how to get vaccinated in these Government guides for children and young people. Alternatively, you can download and print this helpful leaflet
Regular asymptomatic household testing
Twice-weekly testing can be carried out using home-testing kits which can be collected from NHS testing locations or ordered online. Please note they cannot be collected from Devon County Council community testing sites at the moment.
Our community testing sites are only able to carry out on-site tests, which must be booked in advance via our website.
As well members of a household, childcare bubble or support bubble of school and college staff and pupils, this facility is also available for anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others, anyone who cares for others, either paid or voluntary.
Help your child prepare for school and support their mental health
Some pupils might feel anxious about being back in the classroom. That’s perfectly normal; lots of children will feel the same way.
Start to talk to your child about the daily routine that they were once so familiar with, and ask them about what the positives are about being back. You could go through some of the changes they may expect at school and think about ways they can re-establish their connections with friends and teachers.
Reassure children about the safety measures in place to keep them safe and remind them that they can also help prevent germs spreading by washing their hands with soap, coughing or sneezing into their elbow and giving everyone extra space.
It doesn’t have to start as a conversation about worries, but these might arise as you talk. There are lots of resources in the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Time for Us’ pack to help manage those worries.
It’s often good to have these discussions while you are doing something else, like playing with Lego, drawing, cooking or travelling in the car rather than sitting face-to-face as that can feel quite intense.
It’s been a hugely disrupted year, and it might take a little while for children to get used to the change, and that’s normal. There’ll be ups and downs. Try your best to support, reassure and comfort them, without putting pressure on yourself to make it better.
If your child experiences difficulties while they’re at school, please contact their school to make them aware, so that you can work together to support your child. If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, speak to the school and your GP.
- NHS Every Mind Matters website has lots of useful information about looking after your children’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Young Minds offers advice about mental health for children and young people up to the age of 25. They also have a Parent Helpline on 0808 802 5544.
- Childline offers a confidential telephone counselling service, so your child can speak to someone anonymously. They can call 0800 1111 any time, free of charge, or have an online chat with a counsellor, or check out the Childline message boards.
Changes to breakfast, after-school and out-of-school clubs
Out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers can now offer provision to all children, without restriction on the reasons for which they may attend. You can find out more on the government’s website.
The provider should follow the relevant protective measures guidance.
This change came into effect as part of step 2 of the COVID-19 response spring 2021 roadmap.
The holiday activities and food programme
The government’s holiday activities and food (HAF) programme has been expanded to reach all local authority areas over the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays during 2021.
30 hours funded childcare
Working parents with three and four-year-olds could get up to 30 hours funded childcare. You’ll need to apply now to claim for next term.
If you’re already claiming, don’t forget to reconfirm your eligibility every three months. Check the government website for full eligibility criteria to find out if you can claim.
All parents get up to 15 hours funded childcare per week for their three and four-year-olds.
You could also access funded childcare for your two-year-old if you receive certain benefits or they have an Education, Health and Care Plan.